The XX Factor

Komen Apologizes for Pulling Funding From Planned Parenthood—Will It Help the Foundation in the Long Run?

Participants in the Race for the Cure gather at the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.


After several days of blowback for the decision to pull grant money from Planned Parenthood, the founder and board of directors from the Susan G. Komen for the cure breast cancer charity has apologized and vowed to amend their rules. For those of you not following the controversy, news surfaced earlier this week that Komen pulled grants from Planned Parenthood because they were under an investigation by Congress. However, that investigation is clearly politically motivated: it is led by Florida Rep. Cliff Stearns, who is deeply pro-life and a backer of anti-abortion pregnancy resource centers. Here’s the language from the Komen press release about their new policy:

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.

The result is that Planned Parenthood will be eligible for future grants and the Komen foundation will fulfill existing grants. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards responded to the Komen change with her own press release in which she says:

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.

The question remains, though, whether or not Komen’s actions have irrevocably hurt their organization. I would argue that they have. Though most people will forget the kerfuffle by Monday (We’ve got the Super Bowl and the GOP primary to preoccupy us), Komen has already been politicized where they were once neutral. Even post-apology, pro-choice donors may be wary of the foundation, and if they’re committed to eradicating cancer, will find another organization to give to. Pro-life donors may be infuriated by the walk-back, and, the most thorough of them will find organizations that don’t give a penny to Planned Parenthood if they want to make a charitable contribution. TBOGG at Firedoglake has a good explanation about how nonprofits get their donations, and they make the smart point that Komen’s biggest mistake is that they’ve tarnished their previously untouchable image. Before, coming out against Komen could be framed as not caring about women’s health (despite the many problems with the organization that have nothing to do with Planned Parenthood). With this controversy, those pink ribbons have a muddier hue.