February 3, 2012

Komen for the Cure just released the following statement from Nancy Brinker and the Susan G. Komen Board of Directors:

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.

Update: Just as this news broke, I was putting together a petition to call for Karen Handel's resignation and for Komen to publicly commit to continuing to fund Planned Parenthood and stem cell research centers. If you want to sign it as a way to affirm the call for a right-wing ideologue to leave decisions about women's health to more objective people, please feel free. Here it is.

Update 2: Planned Parenthood releases a statement, which says in part:

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.

Update #3: A Komen board member confirms that there is no guarantee future grants will be awarded to Planned Parenthood. On its face, this isn't an unusual statement for a foundation to make. After all, grants are for finite periods of time and must be renewed with new applications from time to time. However, in this case it's troubling, given the political motives for their original decision. What would stop them from finding any small excuse not to fund grants?

Nancy Brinker's remarks on Andrea Mitchell's show gave a preview of a panoply of excuses. Everything from "grant excellence" to the claim that they want to 'eliminate third parties' in the screening process. For this reason, it seems prudent to keep the pressure on NGKF to be transparent and accountable for their decisions. It's not enough to issue a statement to take the heat off. They need to back up their words with actions.

John Aravosis:

If Komen is serious, they can simply approve the application Planned Parenthood has already submitted. Yes, they turned it down once, supposedly because of the now-old rule about investigations. Fine. If the rule is gone, then approve the grant.

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