This Is What a Backlash Looks Like: Komen for the Cure and Planned Parenthood

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February 1, 2012; Source: | Yesterday, NPQ reported on the defunding of Planned Parenthood by Susan G. Komen for the Cure—an action with political overtones and one which we pointed out carries enormous risks in terms of alienating Komen’s base of supporters. As we suggested would likely happen, people are quickly voting with their purses and signatures. According to Fox News, as of early last evening, Planned Parenthood had received $400,000 from 6,000 donors to be put towards screening and at least two petitions have begun; many signatories are saying that they are previous Komen donors who are withdrawing support and transferring it to Planned Parenthood.

Credo Action and have started petitions online and the comments accompanying the almost 26,000 signatures gathered via by early yesterday evening included these:

I support the Susan G. Komen organization because it has been pro-woman, which means pro-choice. I will not support any organization that believes it’s okay to take an woman’s right to make her own choice away from her.

This is a very sad development. I will not donate to the Koman Foundation until they resume their relationship with Planned Parenthood and I will urge my friends to do the same.

I have just celebrated my 11th year of surviving breast cancer. I am DISGUSTED and DISAPOINTED that you have STOPPED support for PLANNED PARENTHOOD. I will NO longer look for PINK RIBBONS when I purchase products. How could you fight so hard for your sister and CUT care to all the uninsured SISTERS out there? SHAME ON YOU!!!!

These sentiments mirror those in comments on our own site. Meanwhile, portions of an interview conducted two weeks ago with Planned Parenthood Executive Director Cecile Richards indicate that these attacks on Planned Parenthood may be crystallizing support around the agency. Says Richards, “It was the first time, really, we’d ever seen Congress go after Planned Parenthood as an organization—not just being against choice or other issues—and to make a foursquare effort to get rid of the entire family-planning program in the United States, and to have such a big vote on it in the U.S. House was historic. They named us by name, and women really identified with this. It wasn’t just ‘well, times are tough, we’re going to cut family planning services,’ it was literally we’re going to tell women they can’t go to the major family-planning provider in this country.”

“That was stunning and it’s interesting looking at it now, a year later,” Richards said. “Our support actually grew over the past year, not only in terms of activists and particularly a lot of young people who had never been active on issues related to Planned Parenthood, but also just in the American public’s eye and I think it was because there was such a focus on services we provide, the breadth of health care we provide, and I think you’ve seen all the numbers on Congress at record lows.”

Apparently, even some members of the Komen network are disturbed by the action taken. In Connecticut, the Komen affiliate declares on its website that the decision was made at national headquarters and that it has enjoyed a “great partnership” with Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. “We understand, and share, in the frustration around this situation,” the notice said. “We hope that any investigation prohibiting Planned Parenthood from receiving Komen grants is promptly resolved.”

Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic reports that internally, the decision has caused a firestorm. He was told by three sources that the managing director of community health, Mollie Williams, who was responsible for distributing grants, immediately quit in protest. Although Goldberg was unable to get a statement from Williams, he says that John Hammarley, formerly Komen’s senior communications adviser “Mollie is one of the most highly-respected and ethical people inside the organization, and she felt she couldn’t continue under these conditions” He went on to add, “The Komen board of directors are very politically savvy folks, and I think over time they thought if they gave in to the very aggressive propaganda machine of the anti-abortion groups, that the issue would go away. It seemed very short-sighted to me.”

Hammarley also revealed that the issue had been under discussion for some time, “About a year ago, a small group of people got together inside the organization to talk about what the options were, what would be the ramifications of staying the course, or of telling our affiliates they can’t fund Planned Parenthood, or something in-between…As we looked at the ramifications of ceasing all funding, we felt it would be worse from a practical standpoint, from a public relations standpoint and from a mission standpoint. The mission standpoint is, ‘ How could we abandon our commitment to the screening work done by Planned Parenthood?”

In the same article, Goldberg cites another source who says that the rule Komen used to defund Planned Parenthood was established for the express purpose of affecting the defunding. He cites the anonymous source as revealing, “The cart came before the horse in this case…The rule was created to give the board of directors the excuse to stop the funding of Planned Parenthood. It was completely arbitrary. If they hadn’t come up with this particular rule, they would have come up with something else in order to separate themselves from Planned Parenthood.”

NPQ will continue to keep you up to date on this historic case. In the meantime, we would love to continue to hear readers’ opinions and ideas.—Ruth McCambridge

  • Nancy K

    With proper “fund accounting” the Susan B Koman organization could have if they wished funded the health screenings that they wished to fund “restricted” to those events with Planned Parenthood… and Planned Parenthood could have reported the funds as only going to those events… so my conclusion is that this was entirely “political” and more than that just stupid.

  • Amy

    …and that’s why nonprofit organizations should not have anything to do with politics.

  • Amy M

    What amazes me is that Komen seems so unprepared for the backlash. They have no talking points prepared except for “PP in under investigation.” I can think of a dozen ways of managing the situation and they seem to be doing none of them. They don’t even reference the issue on their homepage. Brand and reputation are the most important assets for an organization like Komen, and they just self-destructed with this announcement. Pink ribbons will forever now be associated with the pro-life movement, which will turn off more than half of Americans from being involved. I wonder what groups like the NFL will do now – do they wear the pink uniforms knowing about the controversy? I doubt it.

  • Comfortandjoys

    Komen has disabled its message board after receiving

  • Comfortandjoys

    What is Komen hiding by taking down its message boards:

    Elkay: My first account was deleted and all my posts are gone, even the one where onedot told me I should be slapped. Komen has crossed into right wing nut job land.

    One Dot: elkay or whatever your troll name is, are you spreading this slur against me too??? You said in an argument that this “is a slap in the face to women”. I said that a slap in the face is tame compared to infanticide that happens in PP clinics. Somehow you are spreading the slur that that means I advocate violence against women. You and comfort are the foul detestable trolls, not I.

    The poster One Dot made more than 100 verbally abusive comments to anyone posting their disappointment in Komen’s decision. Starting last night, posts and posters started to be deleted from the message board- but “OneDot’s” posts were all present- even 24 hours after being reported to the moderator for abusive language