Komen Founder Nancy Brinker Defends Planned Parenthood Decision

Yes, we're in full damage control mode now. Nancy Brinker made a very long appearance on Andrea Mitchell's show this morning to insist that this wasn't about defunding Planned Parenthood, but really it is about "grant excellence."

The clip above is toward the end of the interview and includes reaction from Senators Patty Murray and Barbara Boxer. What's remarkable about Brinker's appearance is her pivot away from the "under investigation" reason for terminating the grants to one of "grant excellence." What, I wonder, does "grant excellence" mean? To me, it means they want a less incendiary excuse for a bad decision. She goes on about metrics but has no answer to questions about what metrics they evaluated and how Planned Parenthood failed to meet whatever expectations they had for the grant.

Brinker and the SGKF have another problem, too, which I'm sure relates to Brinker's pivot to a new reason for the Planned Parenthood decision. It seems that Penn State is the subject of an ongoing investigation too.

MoJo reports:

Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which recently announced that it is ending grants to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screening because of a controversial investigation launched by an anti-abortion Republican congressman, currently funds cancer research at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center to the tune of $7.5 million. Like Planned Parenthood, Penn State is currently the subject of a federal government investigation, and like the Planned Parenthood grant, the Penn State grant appears to violate a new internal rule at Komen that bans grants to organizations that are under investigation by federal, state, or local governments. But so far, only the Planned Parenthood grants appear to have been cancelled.

An internal Komen memo written by President Elizabeth Thompson and obtained by Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic states that if "an applicant or its affiliates" is under investigation "for financial or administrative improprieties by local, state or federal authorities," then "the applicant will be ineligible to receive a grant." Penn State, the Pennsylvania university that the Hershey center is affiliated with, is currently under investigation by the federal government over the sexual assault scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, who has been indicted on multiple counts of sexual abuse of children. In 2008, the Komen foundation awarded a five-year, $7.5 million grant to the Hershey center to study treatments that could reduce the risk of breast cancer.

I do not believe that the cancer research at Penn State is affected by the Sandusky investigation. Similarly, I don't believe that cancer screenings conducted by Planned Parenthood are affected by the fact that they provide abortion services. I cite this article to illustrate how weak Brinker's—and by extension, the SGKF—claims that the decision to terminate Planned Parenthood's grants related to pending investigations. It's an absurd stance to take, and one that clearly comes out of pressure from the Catholic Church, the far right wing anti-abortion zealots in this country, and internal pressures by ideologues with agendas.

In less than 24 hours, a respected charity destroyed thirty years of goodwill and public relations, placed women's health in danger and chose to abandon what should be a non-partisan effort to prevent a disease that doesn't care if you've had an abortion or used birth control pills. Cancer just wants to kill you, not convert you to its politics.


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