Following a massive public backlash over its decision to pull funding for breast cancer screenings from Planned Parenthood, Susan G. Komen for the Cure founder Nancy Brinker apologized to the family planning organization on Friday and said Komen will preserve its eligibility for future grants.
Brinker said in a statement that the decision is a result of "distress" at the "presumption" that Komen, the nation's largest breast cancer charity, pulled its funding from Planned Parenthood for political reasons:
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.
To be clear, Komen's apology is not a promise to renew Planned Parenthood grants. It's a promise to "continue to fund existing grants" to the organization -- which it was already planning on doing -- and to make it eligible for future grants. At no point in the press release does Brinker promise that Komen will renew grants to Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood has raised nearly one million dollars in the past several days -- including a $250,000 donation from New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg -- due to an outpouring of public support. The amount would have been more than enough to make up for the $600,000 Komen donates to Planned Parenthood each year. All of that funding goes toward breast cancer care, screenings and referrals.
Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, responded to Komen's apology in a statement on Friday:
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.
During the last week, millions spontaneously joined a national conversation about lifesaving breast cancer prevention care and reinforced shared values about access to health care for all. 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 thanks each and every person who has contributed to elevating the importance of breast cancer prevention for so many women in need.
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. 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. What these past few days have demonstrated is the deep resolve all Americans share in the fight against cancer, and we honor those who are at the helm of this battle.
“Planned Parenthood has been a trusted partner with the Komen Foundation in early cancer detection and prevention services. In particular, Planned Parenthood helps the Komen Foundation reach vulnerable populations — low-income women, African-American women, and Latinas — especially in rural areas and underserved communities where Planned Parenthood health centers are their only source of health care. With Komen Foundation grants, over the past five years, Planned Parenthood health centers provided nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams and more than 6,400 mammogram referrals. With the outpouring of support over the past week, even more women in need will receive lifesaving breast cancer care.
UPDATE: Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) sharply criticized Komen's decision to make Planned Parenthood eligible for new grants on Friday, calling the move "hollow and weak."
"I am deeply disappointed in the sudden reversal by the Komen Foundation of their original pledge to cut ties with Planned
Parenthood - the nation's largest abortion provider," she said. "Their original stance to stop funding pending an important congressional investigation was an act of courage and prudence, making their sudden reversal today appear hollow and weak."
Rep. Ellmers is one of the lawmakers who called for a federal investigation into Planned Parenthood's use of funds after Americans United for Life, an anti-abortion group, released a report on the subject.
Below, see how the people are reacting to the reversal: