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Komen Charity Reverses Planned Parenthood Grant Cuts

February 3, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
After two days of uproar and different explanations for its initial decision, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure charity reversed course Friday on cutting funding for Planned Parenthood. Hari Sreenivasan and Amina Khan of The Los Angeles Times discuss the abrupt shift in message at the well-known breast cancer charity.
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JEFFREY BROWN: Next: After an uproar, the Susan G. Komen Foundation reverses course on its decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood.

Hari Sreenivasan has our update.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The about-face came after two days of anger from many women and supporters, and after the breast cancer charity offered two different explanations for its decision.

First, Komen leaders said they would cut grants to Planned Parenthood because of a new policy barring money to organizations being investigated by the government. Then yesterday, Komen officials cited concerns over how Planned Parenthood provided mammograms and other follow-up services.

This morning, Komen’s founder, Nancy Brinker, apologized in a statement saying: “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.”

For more on what happened, we turn to Amina Khan of The Los Angeles Times.

Thanks for being with us.

AMINA KHAN, The Los Angeles Times: Thanks for having me.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. So help put us — help put this in perspective a bit more. What did we learn today?

AMINA KHAN: Well, today we learned that Susan G. Komen for the Cure had reversed its decision to prevent any funding going to organizations that have been under any kind of investigation whatsoever.

They now say that they will allow funding to go to Planned Parenthood and other organizations so long as any sort of investigation is not conclusive and criminal. So this basically opens the door again for any of the affiliates around the United States to continue to receive funding from their local Komen organizations.

HARI SREENIVASAN: How severe were the past three days for the Susan Komen Foundation?

AMINA KHAN: You know, I mean, I don’t think this was something that they really expected. And I don’t think it’s something that Planned Parenthood expected either.

They — Komen received support from both sides. There were many people praising the decision. And there were many people condemning it. Planned Parenthood for their part didn’t expect to receive the kind of support they received on social media, Twitter, Facebook.

And, you know, as Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, put it, it just really caught fire.

HARI SREENIVASAN: How powerful was that social media element of it?

AMINA KHAN: They say that it was pretty powerful.

I mean, basically, when you have something like Facebook providing a space for people to tell their own stories, to really lay out why this is important to them, that is something that can be a very, very powerful tool.

And Cecile Richards herself says she believes it wouldn’t have caught quite as much attention from the mainstream media had it not been for this big social media push. So they give it a lot of credit.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And, at the moment, Planned Parenthood almost came out ahead in this entire event, right?

AMINA KHAN: Yes, it seems like they have done pretty well for themselves.

In the last few days, they have raised somewhere around $3 million, some of it from big donors like Michael Bloomberg, and others from smaller donors. And that’s been to an emergency fund that has been set up since Komen said that it would be — or since the announcement came out that Komen would be halting funding to Planned Parenthood, which has obviously since reversed.

But, clearly, yes, they have come out quite a bit ahead. That said, Komen has also received funds as well, probably from people who supported that initial decision. So it will be interesting to see, you know, how high their profiles are raised by this.

One of the things that Cecile Richards mentioned in a press conference this morning was that she got a call from Lance Armstrong’s foundation, LIVESTRONG, and that is someone that they have never been able to work with before. So they are receiving opportunities from places that they had not expected before.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So how strained is the relationship between these two organizations? In part of that conference call, she said that she heard this turnabout like everybody else did. There wasn’t a special phone call. There weren’t letters back and forth.

AMINA KHAN: I don’t know how strained the relationship is.

Yes, she did indeed hear it the same way that everyone else did, through a release on the Internet. And she said at that point in time that she had put a call in, but had not heard back yet. That said, I mean, the overall tone is they just want to put this behind them, that they are sort of very relieved and happy to move on, and they just want to go back to their goal of serving women.

So, right now, the tone is very much about building bonds and re-forging that and sort of moving on. And I think they attribute that a lot to the very good relationships that they have on the ground with the local affiliates of Komen.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Amina Khan from The Los Angeles Times, thanks so much for your time.

AMINA KHAN: Thank you.