January 31, 2012: The Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast cancer research-and-treatment foundation announced that it would no longer give grants to Planned Parenthood. Komen’s CEO, Nancy Brinker, said “Our issue is grant excellence. [Planned Parenthood clinics] do pass-through grants with their screening grants: they send people to other facilities. We want to do more direct service grants.” There was also concern with Komen leadership because Planned Parenthood was under Congressional investigation. Komen had also been under pressure from pro-life groups concerned about Komen’s financial ties to PP.
February 3, 2012: Komen reverses its decision.
What happened between those two dates was a lesson and a warning: anyone who tries to stop giving money to PP, however small an amount, will be smeared. Also, PP shrewdly turned Komen’s decision into a fundraising opportunity, reportedly getting $250,000 in donations within days – donations not earmarked for breast health work, by the way.
Fox News reported at the time that Komen grants to PP totaled roughly $680,000 in 2011 and $580,000 in 2010, “going to at least 19 of its affiliates for breast-cancer screening and other breast-health services.” Those services were (and remain) primarily manual breast exams. PP does not do mammograms, as PP leader Cecile Richards affirmed to a Congressional committee in 2015.
Remember – Komen was planning to pull the PP grants in order to give the money to organizations doing more direct breast-care services. That wasn’t acceptable to PP.
At the time of the Komen flap, Richards decried the politicization of women’s health. “It’s hard to understand how an organization with whom we share a mission of saving women’s lives could have bowed to this kind of bullying. It’s really hurtful.” To the New York Times: “I think there’s really been a chord struck over this issue, this issue of political organizations who are trying to politicize women’s reproductive health. This kind of political bullying — I think folks are just saying, ‘Enough.’”
Komen officials could have swapped stories with her about how hurtful it is to bow to bullies.
One Komen executive, Karen Handel, soon became an ex-Komen executive. She wrote a book, Planned Bullyhood, in an attempt to set the already-cloudy record straight. From Politifact, September 25, 2012:
“Some critics suggested Handel was behind Komen’s policy decision. But in her book, Handel says Komen had considered ending the relationship with Planned Parenthood ‘for at least a decade,’ as Komen restructured its grant model to focus on measurable outcomes to fighting breast cancer. That focus, she said, excluded much of what Planned Parenthood did.
“In her book, Handel makes pointed statements regarding Planned Parenthood’s services, noting that the organization promoted itself as a provider of mammograms to poor women.
“‘The truth is, Planned Parenthood does not provide mammograms,’ she wrote. ‘Planned Parenthood refers women to mammography providers, serving as the middlewoman, if you will.'”
Today, Komen affiliates are free to give grants to Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is still not a breast cancer research organization, nor does it provide mammograms.