Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a breast-cancer advocacy organization, reversed its decision to end $680,000 in funding for Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc., and said it is changing its grant criteria as a result of controversy over the original ruling.
After Komen’s decision to end the grants became public, Planned Parenthood raised about $3 million in pledges from more than 10,000 donors, Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood’s president, said in a call with reporters. Komen announced its reversal in a statement today with an apology “to the American public” from Chief Executive Officer Nancy Brinker.
Previously, Dallas-based Komen had said grant rules approved by its board eliminated donations to any group under investigation by the U.S., states or communities. Planned Parenthood said Komen’s action was spurred by pressure from anti-abortion forces, sparking a torrid Internet debate.
Komen cited as a reason for the fund withdrawal a probe by Representative Cliff Stearns, a Florida Republican and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, into whether New York-based Planned Parenthood is illegally using government money for abortions.
`Right and Fair'
The newest Komen criteria say investigations must be “criminal and conclusive in nature and not political” to affect grant funding, Brinker said in the statement. “That is what is right and fair.”
Among Planned Parenthood’s $3 million in pledges were $700,000 from three large benefactors, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“We are enormously grateful that the Komen Foundation has clarified its grantmaking criteria, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with Komen partners, leaders and volunteers,” Richards said today in a statement released before the conference call.
Planned Parenthood helps the Komen foundation reach low-income women, particularly in rural areas and underserved communities, according to the statement.
Komen was the most valuable non-profit brand in the world, according to a 2010 report by Harris Interactive, a New York-based market research firm. Concerns the brand would be affected by the debate may have contributed to the reversal, said Mike Paul, president of MGP & Associates, a New York-based reputation management firm.
Building Up Trust
“They’re going to have to build up trust,” Paul said in a telephone interview. “All the good will you built up could be gone in an instant.”
What has been a powerful brand with ties to the National Football League now may be joined to politics, Paul said. “People wanted to be associated with every single thing they did. And now we hear politics and policy has influence. The same affinity people had on the positive side became the same affinity they’ve having on the negative perspective,” he said.
Social media fueled the wildfire-like spread of the controversy, he said, adding, “the conversation that used to be only over the dinner table is now in a tweet or a Facebook status update in the millions.”
Two-thirds of more than 3,600 sentiments expressed online about the split were negative to Komen, according to NetBase Solutions Inc., a Mountain View, California-based company whose software reads and interprets 50,000 sentences a minute from billions of social media sources.
About 250,000 people have signed a petition on the website MoveOn.org, a political supporter of President Barack Obama, calling on Komen to reverse its decision, Sarah Lane, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail yesterday. San Francisco-based Credo, the mobile phone provider that’s Planned Parenthood’s largest corporate funder, also has a petition.
Those petitions were countered by groups such as thankskomen.com, which said it opposed Planned Parenthood,
Komen provides $93 million in grants to local communities for breast-cancer education, screening and treatment. It is known for the pink ribbons it first distributed to breast-cancer survivors and participants of the Komen New York City Race for the Cure in 1991, according to its website. The foundation also funds research on the disease.
“The essence of the organization” has been obscured by the Planned Parenthood dispute, Brinker said on a call with reporters yesterday. Brinker founded the group in 1982 after her sister, Susan G. Komen, died of breast cancer.
Planned Parenthood advocates abortion rights and provides abortion services as well as offering breast exams and mammogram referrals. Komen grants paid for about 4.3 percent of the 4 million breast exams and 9 percent of the 70,000 mammogram referrals provided at clinics in the past five years.
Bloomberg said yesterday he would match the next $250,000 Planned Parenthood received from donors, following a pledge by The Amy and Lee Fikes’ Foundation, run by the head of closely held Bonanza Oil Co. in Dallas, to contribute $250,000, and Credo to donate $200,000. Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.