In a dramatic reversal on Friday, Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced it will continue funding breast exams at Planned Parenthood clinics, despite deciding earlier this week to cut off funding for the nation's leading family-planning and abortion provider.
"We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives," Komen Founder and CEO Nancy Brinker said in a prepared statement released on the organization's blog.
"We have been distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood. They were not."
On Thursday, Brinker appeared on NBC News to defend the organization's controversial grant-making rule changes. She said existing contracts with Planned Parenthood would be honored. Friday's change of heart does not guarantee Planned Parenthood will receive future funding; it just means the organization meets the qualifications to apply.
Komen officials announced the turnaround following a barrage of negative attention and an intense social media campaign over their decision to stop grants to Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood had alleged that Komen — which was founded in 1982 by Brinker, a former U.S. ambassador to Hungary under President George W. Bush, to honor her deceased sister — succumbed to rising political pressure.
Komen officials first said they had changed a funding rule that prohibited grants to organizations under federal investigation. (U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., has launched an inquiry into whether Planned Parenthood has spent taxpayer money on abortions, something that federal law prohibits.) Then Komen officials said they were halting the funding because Planned Parenthood clinics focused more on screenings than on actual mammograms, a message change that sparked additional outcry.
“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," Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards said in a prepared statement.
"This compassionate outcry in support of those most in need rose above political, ideological and cultural divides, and will surely be recognized as one of our nation's better moments during a contentious political time."
Planned Parenthood officials say Komen grants have provided nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams and more than 6,400 mammogram referrals at their clinics over the last five years. Sarah Wheat, the interim co-CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region, said her office was "tearing up" over the news. "This was just heartbreaking news this week, and to have them recognize we work best when we work together is just so rewarding," she said.
Here's Brinker's full statement:
We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives.
The events of this week have been deeply unsettling for our supporters, partners and friends and all of us at Susan G. Komen. We have been distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood. They were not.
Our original desire was to fulfill our fiduciary duty to our donors by not funding grant applications made by organizations under investigation. We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political. That is what is right and fair.
Our only goal for our granting process is to support women and families in the fight against breast cancer. Amending our criteria will ensure that politics has no place in our grant process. We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.
It is our hope and we believe it is time for everyone involved to pause, slow down and reflect on how grants can most effectively and directly be administered without controversies that hurt the cause of women. We urge everyone who has participated in this conversation across the country over the last few days to help us move past this issue. We do not want our mission marred or affected by politics – anyone’s politics.
Starting this afternoon, we will have calls with our network and key supporters to refocus our attention on our mission and get back to doing our work. We ask for the public’s understanding and patience as we gather our Komen affiliates from around the country to determine how to move forward in the best interests of the women and people we serve.
We extend our deepest thanks for the outpouring of support we have received from so many in the past few days and we sincerely hope that these changes will be welcomed by those who have expressed their concern.