Susan G. Komen for the Cure Defunds Planned Parenthood

January 31, 2012; Source: National Journal | The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Susan G. Komen for the Cure, in a move that may potentially risk a portion of its large base of supporters, has decided that it will no longer fund Planned Parenthood to perform breast exams. The move appears to be linked to pro-life efforts to edge Planned Parenthood out of federal funding due to its willingness to perform abortions, among a host of other health services for women. The grants to be cut went to at least 19 clinics and Planned Parenthood says they totaled approximately $680,000 last year.

The reason that Komen has given for the action is that its board has just now passed a policy that disallows them from funding any organization under congressional investigation. Recently, the House Oversight and Investigations subcommittee launched an investigation, spearheaded by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), into Planned Parenthood’s use of federal funding and issued a letter demanding information from Planned Parenthood. While seen as a nuisance investigation by some, it was apparently enough for Komen to hang its hat on in making the decision to defund Planned Parenthood. A statement from Komen said that the action had been taken to “strengthen our grants program” and had “implemented more stringent eligibility and performance criteria…While it is regrettable when changes in priorities and policies affect any of our grantees, such as a longstanding partner like Planned Parenthood, we must continue to evolve to best meet the needs of the women we serve and most fully advance our mission.”

In cutting the funding Komen is the only known organization to cut funding to Planned Parenthood in response to the recent political pressure. Planned Parenthood, of course, has been under constant attack by right-to-life legislators who have repeatedly tried to block its federal funding but have been met by the resistance of President Obama and others who did not wish to see the organization unfairly pilloried. Some states have also attempted to pass laws preventing abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid dollars, but the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services warned states that such policies would put the totality of their Medicaid funding at risk.

In response to the decision, some have pondered the potential influence of Komen Senior Vice President of Public Policy Karen Handel. Handel, the former Georgia secretary of state, joined Komen last April after an unsuccessful electoral run in Georgia’s Republican gubernatorial primary. During the campaign, Handel promised to nix state funding for breast screenings and cervical cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood if she became governor. “[S]ince I am pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood,” Handel wrote.

In an article on New York Magazine’s Web site, Noreen Malone notes one tweet sent in response to the action. “The Komen Foundation just destroyed its brand, and it’s going to be very, very sorry.” Melinda Henneberger, a columnist in the Washington Post who has herself had breast cancer titles her article on the subject, “Planned Parenthood Will Recoup but Will Komen?”

She cites a tweet from Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead that reads “I am crying in a cab at this Komen decision. Tomorrow we will rally. Who is in this fight with me! You can no longer sit idly by.” Henneberger then writes, “In response to the charge that it had given in to bullying, Komen said in a statement to CBS News that ‘grant-making decisions are not about politics.’ The PR team that came up with that one may have a future in comedy. Though I guess not at the Daily Show.”

NPQ has been covering the rebellions of stakeholders, including donors, against nonprofits. This will be an interesting situation to watch unfold. –Ruth McCambridge