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Komen Foundation Backs Off Decision to Cut Ties with Planned Parenthood

A flurry of backlash ensued after Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced it would end its six-year partnership with Planned Parenthood Federation of America late on January 31, 2012. Komen claimed the decision had been made based on its new funding regulations that prohibit the foundation from funding any organization under investigation. Planned Parenthood is currently under federal investigation due to a Republican senator’s skepticism over the organization’s funding of abortion services. Thus, the new regulations made Planned Parenthood ineligible to apply for further funding from Komen. The foundation’s grants have contributed significantly to Planned Parenthood’s services for breast cancer screening. Over the past five years, Planned Parenthood’s affiliated health centers performed more than 4 million breast exams – including nearly 170,000 as a result of Komen grants, which totaled $680,000 last year.[1]
 
The decision by Komen immediately sparked public opposition. Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) expressed her disbelief and frustration: “Komen’s decision hurts women—it puts politics before women’s health.”[2] On the other side of the debate came praise for the Komen foundation for “seeing the contradiction between its lifesaving work and its relationship with an abortionist that has ended millions of lives.”[3] After three days of extreme backlash and public outcry, the Komen Foundation reversed its decision, thereby allowing Planned Parenthood to continue to apply for grants from the foundation.
 
The firestorm marked another chapter in the fight over abortion rights in the United States, and, more specifically, the political targeting of the nation’s largest provider of reproductive healthcare, Planned Parenthood. Conservatives have consistently opposed federal funding for Planned Parenthood, accusing the organization of not complying with federal law that forbids federal funds from being used for abortions—despite the fact that federal funding has been prohibited from supporting abortion services since 1976 when the Hyde Amendment was first passed.[4] Abortion is one of the services Planned Parenthood provides; however, the organization’s 2009–2010 annual report shows that well over 90% of its funds go to services unrelated to abortion care and that more of its funds go to cancer screening and prevention (14.5%) than go to abortion services (3%).[5]
 
The federal investigation into Planned Parenthood is the latest in a slew of attacks against the organization that has taken place since an increased number of conservative Republicans took office in January 2011. Filed by Senator Cliff Sterns (R-FL) in September 2011, the investigation requests documents on Planned Parenthood’s funding from the federal government, how the funding is spent, and how Planned Parenthood divides its funding between family planning and abortion services.[6]
 
While the Komen Foundation denied that there was political motivation behind the decision, it has been concerned with pressure from anti-abortion groups that assert the foundation has a growing internal bias against pro-choice organizations. In April 2011, the Komen Foundation hired Karen Handel, a conservative politician who announced her anti-choice stance while running for governor of Georgia in 2010.[7] Handel was quoted in her blog as saying “every abortion is a tragedy, and . . . government has a role, along with the faith community, in encouraging women to choose life.”[8] Nancy Brinker, Komen’s founder and CEO, is also closely tied with conservatives, and she was appointed by former president George W. Bush as ambassador to Hungary. Most recently, the Komen Foundation was promised $25,000 from Lifeway Christian Resources through a pink Bible sale. In December 2011, Lifeway halted the sale of the pink Bibles after it discovered Komen was linked to Planned Parenthood.[9]
 
Within several days of Komen’s announcement that it would sever ties with Planned Parenthood, the organization received a wave of donations from supporters. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he would match up to $250,000 of donations made to Planned Parenthood. Within three days, Planned Parenthood had received $3 million,donations, which the organization has said will be dedicated to breast health.[10]
 
A group of senators, including Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantewell (D-WA), also added their support to Planned Parenthood, writing to the Komen Foundation, “We earnestly hope that you will put women’s health before partisan politics and reconsider this decision for the sake of the women who depend on both your organizations for access to the health care they need.” The letter was signed by 25 Democratic senators and 1 Independent.[11] Along with the senators’ letters came support from many using social media; Twitter users repeatedly tweeted the phrases #standwithpp and #shameonkomen.[12]
 
Amid this strong surge of support for Planned Parenthood, Brinker and the Komen Foundation realized the unpopularity of their decision and subsequently decided to reverse their earlier decision prohibiting Planned Parenthood from applying for grant funds. On Friday, February 3, 2012, the Komen Foundation tweeted, “[W]e want to apologize for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives.” A statement from Komen said the foundation would now only cut funding to organizations under investigations that were “criminal and conclusive in nature.”[13]The decision does not, however, guarantee that the grants to Planned Parenthood will continue but only that the organization will still be eligible to apply for future grants.
 
Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, applauded and thanked all those who had contributed to Planned Parenthood during the political chaos.[14] “The outpouring of support for women in need of lifesaving breast cancer screening this week has been astonishing and is a testament to our nation’s compassion and sincerity,” said Richards.
 
The Komen Foundation, on the other hand, has still received criticism from many. Some previous Komen supporters have been disappointed with the foundation for becoming too corporate and say that “feelings of ill will won’t easily be erased.”[15]
 
In a final turn of events, on February 7, Karen Handel announced her decision to resign from the Komen Foundation, reigniting the buzz about the presence of politics within the foundation. While some celebrated her resignation, others say they will “keep vigilant to make sure that [Komen] stays on a non-political path.”[16]
 
 
 

[1] “Komen Backs Off Decision on Funding Cuts,” MSNBC, 3 February 2012, accessed 7 February 2012, <http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46243184/ns/health-womens_health/#.TzLFFcUfSWg>.
[2] Meghan Casserly, “Susan G. Komen Pink Slips Planned Parenthood—Who, What and Why?” Forbes, 1 February 2012, accessed 1 February 2012,
[3] “Susan G. Komen Cuts Ties with Planned Parenthood,” CBS News, 1 February 2012, accessed 1 February 2012, <http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57369527-10391704/
[4] Megan McCarthy, “Republicans Open Sweeping Investigation into Planned Parenthood,” National Journal, 28 September 2011, accessed 2 February 2012, <http://nationaljournal.com/healthcare/
republicans-open-sweeping-investigation-into-planned-parenthood-20110927>; see also Jeannie I. Rosoff, “The Hyde Amendment and the Future,” Family Planning Perspectives 12.4(August 1980): 172.
[5] Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Annual Report 2009–2010 (2010), accessed 9 February 2012,
[6] Megan McCarthy, “Republicans Open Sweeping Investigation Into Planned Parenthood,” <http://nationaljournal.com/healthcare/republicans-open-sweeping-investigation-
[7] Amina Khan and Shari Roan, “In Wake of Komen–Planned Parenthood Rift, Eyes Turn to Karen Handel,” Los Angeles Times, 1 February 2012, accessed 2 February 2012,
[8] “Karen Handel on Life and Planned Parenthood,” Karen Handel for Governor, 15 July 2010, accessed 2 February 2012, <http://web.archive.org/web/20100921093610/http:/blog.karenhandel.com/2010/07/karen-handel-on-life-and-planned-parenthood/.>
[9] Brittany Smith, “Lifeway Christian Ending Sale of Pink Bibles after Uproar,” Christian Post,15 December 2011, accessed 2 February 2012,
[10] Stephanie Condon, “Planned Parenthood Raises $3M for Breast Care Services in Wake of Susan G. Komen Flap,” CBS News, 3 February 2012, accessed 7 February 2012,
[11] Kyung M. Song, “Murray, Cantwell Urge Komen to Reconsider on Planned Parenthood,” Seattle Times, 2 February 2012, accessed 8 February 2012,
[12] Geoffrey A. Fowler, “Social Media Flexes Muscle Again, Amplifying Protests,” Wall Street Journal, 4 February 2012, accessed 8 February 2012,
[13] Jennifer Preston, “Cancer Group Backs Down on Cutting Off Planned Parenthood,” New York Times, 3 February 2012, accessed 6 February 2012,
[14] Planned Parenthood Federation of America, “Statement by Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Regarding Today’s Komen Announcement,” Press Release published 3 February 2012, accessed 8 February 2012 <http://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/newsroom/
[15] Liz Szabo and Gary Strauss, “Komen Reversal on Planned Parenthood Doesn’t End Controversy,” USA Today, 6 February 2012, accessed 8 February 2012.
[16] Jeannine Stein, “Handel Resignation from Komen Draws Swift Reaction on Social Media,” Los Anegeles Times, 7 February 2012, accessed 8 February 2012,

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