Komen drops plan to cut Planned Parenthood grants

NEW YORK — The Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast-cancer charity on Friday abandoned plans to eliminate grants to Planned Parenthood. The startling decision came after three days of virulent criticism that resounded across the Internet, jeopardizing Komen’s iconic image.

“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,” a Komen statement said.

As first reported by The Associated Press on Tuesday, Komen had adopted criteria excluding Planned Parenthood from future grants for breast-cancer screenings because it was under government investigation, citing a probe launched by a Florida congressman at the urging of anti-abortion groups.

Komen said it would change the criteria “to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political.”

“We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants,” the statement said.

Char Wendel, president and executive director of Planned Parenthood of Collier County, was pleased by the decision. The local chapter has not in the past received Komen funding.

“We are very happy because all along we have said that politics should not have an impact into the provision of women’s health,” she said.

The swift backlash to Komen’s decision earlier this week shows supporters for women’s health rights is larger than what Planned Parenthood detractors had thought.

“Millions of people were disturbed by the severance of the relationship because Planned Parenthood is about women’s health care,” Wendel said. “I think (the reversal) shows we are a stronger voice and even though some people think Planned Parenthood is only about abortion, the response to the Komen decision shows thinking people realize Planned Parenthood is about women’s health care.”

John Stemberger, President and General Counsel of the Florida Family Policy Council said his organization was disappointed about the reversal.

Planned Parenthood is a corrupt organization that has been embroiled and exposed in a web of fraud, deceit, and human trafficking,” Stemberger said in a press release. “This hasty political move will continue to tarnish the noble mission, image and funding of the foundation and its work. “

Many of Komen’s affiliates across the country had openly rebelled against the decision to cut the funding, which totaled $680,000 in 2011. One affiliate, in Aspen, Colo., had announced Thursday that it would defy the new rules and continue grants to its local Planned Parenthood partner.

In addition, Komen was inundated with negative comments via emails, on Twitter and on its Facebook page. Many of the messages conveyed a determination to halt gifts to Komen — organizer of the popular Race for the Cure events —because of the decision.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood was reporting an outpouring of support — donations large and small, triggered by the Komen decision, that it said surpassed $3 million since the story broke. It has pledged to use the funds to maintain and expand its breast health services.

Planned Parenthood’s president, Cecile Richards, thanked those donors Friday and welcomed Komen’s change of heart.

“We are enormously grateful that the Komen Foundation has clarified its grantmaking criteria,” Richards said. “What these past few days have demonstrated is the deep resolve all Americans share in the fight against cancer.”

Through the Komen grants, Planned Parenthood says its health centers provided nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams and more than 6,400 mammogram referrals over the past five years.

Komen, in its statement, said it was immediately starting an outreach to its affiliates and supporters to get the charity back on track.

“We urge everyone who has participated in this conversation across the country over the last few days to help us move past this issue,” Komen said. “We do not want our mission marred or affected by politics — anyone’s politics.”

Daily News staff writer Liz Freeman contributed to this report

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