Inside Susan G. Komen Foundation's Decision to Reverse Planned Parenthood Funding

Susan G. Komen for the Cure founder and CEO Nancy G. Brinker announced that the group will continue to fund Planned Parenthood.Susan G. Komen for the Cure founder and CEO Nancy G. Brinker announced that the group will continue to fund Planned …The Susan G. Komen Foundation's reversal on its Planned Parenthood funding is a testament to the power of social media and the influence wielded by women everywhere. But the public outrage over the charity's grant-giving decisions may affect Komen for years to come.

Related: Planned Parenthood decision puts spotlight on Susan G. Komen Foundation's politics

Just three days after the breast-cancer charity, well-known for it's iconic pink ribbon symbol and its "Race for the Cure" marathons, confirmed that it would end grants to Planned Parenthood, Komen founder and CEO Nancy G. Brinker announced that her organization would once again fund breast cancer screenings at certain Planned Parenthood locations. In a statement on Friday, Brinker publicly apologized for how her organization chooses to award funding -- a move that underscored the damage done to the Komen brand.

A  combination of forces led Brinker to the stunning apology. A heated debate quickly spread across the Internet, on message boards, and social media sites, and extended to Capitol Hill, where more than two dozen senators sent a letter to Brinker, a former Ambassador under President George W. Bush, urging the Komen Foundation to reverse the decision.

"We write to express our disappointment with Susan G. Komen for the Cure's decision to cut funding for breast cancer prevention, screening, and education at Planned Parenthood health centers. This troubling decision threatens to reduce access to necessary, life-saving services. We urge Komen to reconsider its decision," the letter reads. "It would be tragic if any woman - let alone thousands of women - lost access to these potentially lifesaving screenings because of a politically motivated attack."

Brinker's apology references the strong reaction on the Web that pegged the group's decision as politically motivated:

"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," she said in a statement. "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."







But even some Komen insiders felt that the decision was more about politics than women's health. Some officials resigned, including Mollie Williams, Komen's director of community health programs.

"Anyone who knows me personally would tell you that I am an advocate for women's health," she said in a statement. "I have dedicated my career to fighting for the rights of the marginalized and underserved. And I believe it would be a mistake for any organization to bow to political pressure and compromise its mission."

"Mollie is one of the most highly respected and ethical people inside the organization, and she felt she couldn't continue under these conditions," John Hammarley, former senior communications adviser at Komen, said in an interview with The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg.

Pro-life groups, many of which had shown great support for the Komen Foundation early this week, were not pleased with the reversal, indicating that Komen may be facing another wave of criticism.

"We are extremely disappointed in Komen's decision," Beth Lauver, director of the archdiocesan Respect Life Apostolate, told the St. Louis Review. "They were taking a very courageous stance, and I am sorry to see that change."

Republican Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, a member of the U.S. House Republican leadership team, told Reuters that it was "really unfortunate" that Komen reversed its decision.

"To be giving grants to an organization that effectively ends so many lives -- just seems to me they made the right decision before and they're making the wrong decision now," Brady said.

Planned Parenthood's president, Cecile Richards, welcomed the reversal and praised the Komen Foundation for its work.

"In recent weeks, the treasured relationship between the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation and Planned Parenthood has been challenged, and we are now heartened that we can continue to work in partnership toward our shared commitment to breast health for the most underserved women," Richards said in a statement. "We are enormously grateful that the Komen Foundation has clarified its grantmaking criteria, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with Komen partners, leaders and volunteers."

The decision to halt grants to Planned Parenthood came just months after the foundation hired Karen Handel to be their senior vice president for policy in April 2011. Handel ran for governor of Georgia in 2010 on a pro-life platform and promised to eliminate state grants to Planned Parenthood, even as she acknowledged that the state money did not fund abortions or abortion-related services.

Hammarley, Komen's former communications adviser, said that the controversy over Planned Parenthood funding has been an issue "for years and years," but that "The internal debate on a senior level rose in the past eight months or so, coinciding with her [Handel's] hiring." In an interview with Andrea Michelle on MSNBC, Brinker said that Handel -- who is the Senior Vice President for Public Policy at Komen -- "did not have anything to do with this decision, which was decided at the board level."



Though the controversy resulted in an immediate increase in donations to both organizations -- Brinks said that donations to Komen had increased "by 100 percent" in two days, and Planned Parenthood received more than $1 million from more than 6,000 donors, including a personal $250,000 pledge from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- the tone of Brinks' statement shows that the negative effects of both the original defunding and its reversal may have long-term consequences for Komen in the court of public opinion.

"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," she continued. "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."

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