Komen's Rapid Policy Reversal Blamed on Planned Parenthood Shakedown

Pro-life breast-cancer survivors upset by charity’s abrupt about-face.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) speaks during a press conference at a Planned Parenthood Clinic Feb. 3, in Seattle. Murray commended the Susan G. Komen Foundation's reversal of a decision to not fund breast exams at Planned Parenthood.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) speaks during a press conference at a Planned Parenthood Clinic Feb. 3, in Seattle. Murray commended the Susan G. Komen Foundation's reversal of a decision to not fund breast exams at Planned Parenthood. (photo: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

Pro-lifers were shocked today as the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure of Breast Cancer, perhaps the world’s leading cancer-advocacy group for women, announced that it is backtracking on an earlier decision to halt funding to abortion provider Planned Parenthood.

They are going to honor current grants to Planned Parenthood and suspend future funding pending the outcome of a congressional investigation of the abortion and contraceptive provider.

The National Right to Life Committee charged in a statement that Komen is “succumbing to pressure from the mainstream media and Planned Parenthood” and noted that Planned Parenthood performs approximately 27% of the abortions done yearly in the United States.

The amount of money involved for the nation’s most prominent advocate and provider of abortions is not insignificant: Komen’s grants to Planned Parenthood in 2011 totaled $680,000 and came in at about $580,000 the previous year, according to reports from The Associated Press.

Komen’s reversal comes on the heels of three days of intense and often virulent lobbying on the part of Planned Parenthood supporters.

Komen received angry emails and postings on its Facebook page. A much-ballyhooed nationwide petition by Planned Parenthood’s largest corporate donor and a letter to Komen signed by no fewer than 26 pro-abortion members of the U.S. Senate added to the fray.
In making the announcement in a statement, Komen struck a contrite tone: “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.”

“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.”

“What happened this week was nothing short of a mafia shakedown by Planned Parenthood of the Komen Foundation,” said Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, a New York and Washington, D.C.-based research association that works exclusively on international social policy. “Planned Parenthood’s message was: ‘Give us money or we will shut down your organization.’”

While the Komen announcement won the praise of Planned Parenthood’s president, Cecile Richards, who called the episode a “learning opportunity,” some observers have suggested that Komen’s latest statement is something less than a complete reversal.

“If you read the statement carefully,” said Ruse, “they didn’t use the word ‘reverse.’ What they are trying to do is freeze the situation so their organization won’t be destroyed.” Ruse said that the statement makes it clear that previous promises to Planned Parenthood (never in doubt) will be honored and that Planned Parenthood is eligible to apply for future grants.

Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, concurred that the latest Komen statement stops far short of promising future funding to Planned Parenthood. An email to the Komen Foundation requesting a comment on this had not received a reply by deadline.

“As a breast-cancer survivor,” Yoest said, “I am troubled that the Komen Foundation has come under such heavy fire for their recent decision to tighten and focus their funding guidelines.” Yoest also characterized the campaign against Komen as “a shakedown.”

“The good side of what happened this week,” Yoest said, “is that it heightened America’s awareness that Planned Parenthood does not provide breast-health screening, but refers people to front-line providers for those services. These are the people we should be supporting, not Planned Parenthood.”

Friday’s seeming reversal followed Komen’s statement on Tuesday that it recently adopted a new rule that it would deny funding to any organization under investigation. Planned Parenthood is being investigated in Congress at the request of House GOP members.

“We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political,” the new statement said. “That is what is right and fair.”

Paul Rondeau, executive director of the American Life League, marveled at the swiftness of the campaign against Komen’s defunding of Planned Parenthood. “This goes to show how a powerful political machine and pro-abortion operation can out-maneuver and overpower the [Catholic Church]  in a matter of days,” Rondeau said.

Indeed, the virulence of the campaign was at times so pronounced that James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal compared it to a protection racket:

“Planned Parenthood’s bitter campaign against Komen — aided by left-liberal activists and media — is analogous to a protection racket: Nice charity you’ve got there. It’d be a shame if anything happened to it. The message to other Planned Parenthood donors is that if they don’t play nice and keep coughing up the cash, they’ll get the Komen treatment.”

“As a pro-life breast-cancer survivor,” said Elizabeth Kantor, an editor and writer in Washington, D.C., “I was really excited to learn that the Susan G. Komen Foundation would no longer support Planned Parenthood. Today, I was very disappointed to hear that the Komen Foundation seems to have bowed to pressure and reversed their decision.”

“It’s frightening and depressing that the abortion lobby has so much power,” Kantor continued. “Susan G. Komen is supposed to be about fighting breast cancer. Why should they be browbeaten into supporting an organization that does hundreds of thousands of abortions a year? Now I get to look forward to more of those awkward conversations where I have to explain to my neighbors, friends and family that, no, I can’t really be on board with their well-intentioned fundraisers [on behalf of Komen].”

Lila Rose of Live Action, who conducted undercover operations that indicated that, contrary to its pitch for funding , Planned Parenthood does indeed refer people elsewhere for mammograms, was also distressed by Komen’s apparent decision to stick with Planned Parenthood.

“I am deeply disappointed by the news that the Susan G. Komen Foundation appears to have reversed their decision on cutting funding to Planned Parenthood,” Rose said in an email.

“For years, the pro-life movement have encouraged Komen to sever all ties from Planned Parenthood, as they are the largest abortion provider in the U.S., under both federal and state investigation, and have been documented covering up child sexual abuse and sex trafficking,” Rose continued. “The Susan G. Komen Foundation is the most influential breast-cancer foundation in America and should distance themselves from an organization that cares more about abortion than women’s health and well-being.”

Rose added, “I encourage all pro-lifers to continue to stand firm against Planned Parenthood and their ruthless pro-abortion allies who have viciously attacked Komen — and anyone who may disagree with them — in recent days. We urge the Susan G. Komen Foundation to stand by their position to defund Planned Parenthood, and together we can work to promote the true health and well-being of every single woman in America, both born and unborn.”

Register correspondent Charlotte Hays writes from Washington.