After Planned Parenthood PR Blitz, Susan G Komen Foundation Caves and Reverses Funding Decision

It was an onslaught of savvy PR tactics yesterday that brought the Susan G. Komen Foundation to its knees, apparently prompting the organization’s retreat today from its initial decision to cut its funding to Planned Parenthood. As Politico reported this morning:

On a day when the breast cancer charity’s top official made the rounds with the national media, insisting the organization’s decision to stop giving grants to Planned Parenthood wasn’t political, the firestorm only got worse. Top Democrats piled on; the head of the Komen chapter in Los Angeles quit; and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is giving a $250,000 matching gift to Planned Parenthood.

The Atlantic Wire reports that the Susan G. Komen foundation’s website was even hacked, for some period displaying a banner that had been changed from “help us get 26.2 or 13.1 miles closer to a world without breast cancer” to read, “help us run over poor women on our way to the bank.” And the long repeated myth that the current Komen CEO takes home a half a million dollar salary was brought back to life yesterday – even though the truth is that Komen’s current CEO, Nancy Brinker, takes home $0 in annual salary.

But hey, breast cancer isn’t supposed to be political, right?

Officials with the Susan G. Komen foundation had insisted the initial decision was never political, that it was about providing more direct mammography screening services for women, according to Nancy Brinker, the charity’s founder and CEO. From Politico:

“We’ve always had the right to cancel contracts if a group was under investigation,” Brinker said on a conference call with reporters. “We simply extended that right to organizations who apply for funding. Three of the 19 Planned Parenthood affiliates will continue to receive funding, and there will be no gap in services for any woman who needs care.”

Brinker said there was broad consensus from Komen’s board over the new policies. Additionally, she said the charity was trying to refocus grants on providers that are able to perform mammography services rather than just breast screenings. Planned Parenthood does not have mammography equipment and refers women to providers for the service.

Susan G. Komen Foundation paid $46,861,000 overall in 2010 on breast cancer screenings, according to the foundation’s most recently available annual report from 2010. The Associated Press reports that Planned Parenthood received $580,000 in grants from the foundation for screenings that year, and that Planned Parenthood says it has performed 170,000 breast exams over the past five years as a result of Komen grants. That would average out to 34,000 screenings annually, a small percentage of Susan G. Komen’s total screenings. Given that Planned Parenthood merely serves a pass-through and refers women to other providers for mammogram screenings, the foundation could certainly maximize its spending by cutting out the middle man and funding such providers directly, especially those that provide all the screening tests in one location.

But after taking to social media yesterday to whip Planned Parenthood supporters into a frenzy, liberal outlets today are claiming a victory for women’s wellness, calling Susan G. Komen foundation “bullies” who would have hurt low-income women who turn to Planned Parenthood for health care. Over the course of the day, the fury drummed up $3 million for Planned Parenthood for breast care services – a number that far outweighs what Susan G. Komen was providing annually.

To those who are skeptical that Planned Parenthood is the bastion of women’s wellness with all the best interests of women in mind that its fervent supporters claim it is, Slate points out that there are in fact some legitimate concerns regarding Planned Parenthood.

“…in reading the report put together by Americans United for Life, which helped launch the investigation, there are some legitimate concerns. Planned Parenthood offices in California, New Jersey, New York, and Washington state have at various times been audited by state and federal authorizes and discovered to have been overbilling state agencies and committing other improper billing practices. Further, Planned Parenthood has a record of not reporting instances of sexual abuse–and I’m not talking about 16-year-old girls who come in with their 19-year-old boyfriends. The AUL report documents a case in which a 13-year-old girl was raped by an older foster brother and was impregnated–twice. Planned Parenthood is required, if it wants to receive federal funds, to comply with mandatory reporting laws.”

In viewing the 181 page report from Americans United for Life, there are a key number of claims against Planned Parenthood that initiated those investigations:

  • Misuse of federal health care and family planning funds.
  • Failure to report criminal child sexual abuse.
  • Failure to comply with parental involvement laws.
  • Assisting those engaged in prostitution and/or sex trafficking.
  • Dangerous misuse of the abortion drug RU-486.
  • Misinformation about so-called “emergency contraception,” including ella.
  • Willingness to provide women with inaccurate and misleading information.
  • Willingness to refer to substandard clinics.

Meanwhile, before Susan G. Komen foundation had reversed its funding decision today, it had received numerous donations from supporters who are pro-life and do not agree with Planned Parenthood’s business model, which they say is primarily focused on providing abortions. So the remaining question is, will those people who donated to Susan G. Komen now demand the return of their donations? Most legal experts say that unless donations are made on a conditional basis up front, they’re not likely to see that money again, not unless Susan G. Komen voluntarily offers to return it. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Komen’s new donors couldn’t (or shouldn’t) try.