Moral Low Ground


Susan G. Komen for the Cure founder Nancy Brinker Announces Planned Parenthood Reversal, Vows to Continue Funding

In the wake of a massive public backlash and the resignation of top officials from the nation’s leading breast cancer charity, the founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure has announced a reversal of her organization’s decision to end funding of breast cancer screening at Planned Parenthood.

Brinker: Welcome change of heart.

The Huffington Post reports that Nancy Brinker, who founded Susan G. Komen for the Cure in 1982, announced Friday that her group reversed its earlier decision and will continue funding breast cancer screening at Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest provider of reproductive health services.

Brinker released a statement in which she expressed her “distress” over the “presumption” that Komen’s decision to end Planned Parenthood funding was politically motivated. It began:

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.

The events of this week have been deeply unsettling for our supporters, partners and friends and all of us at Susan G. Komen. 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.

Our original desire was to fulfill our fiduciary duty to our donors by not funding grant applications made by organizations under investigation. We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political. That is what is right and fair.

Our only goal for our granting process is to support women and families in the fight against breast cancer.

But many people do believe Brinker made the decision to end funding for political reasons. She is a major Republican donor who was ambassador to Hungary during the Bush administration. She also hired Karen Handel, a former Georgia gubernatorial candidate endorsed by Sarah Palin as “staunchly and unequivocally pro-life,” as Komen’s  senior vice president for public policy. Upon her arrival at Komen, Handel conducted a full review of foundation grants and initiated a policy of denying funding to any organization under federal, state or local investigation.

It just so happened that Planned Parenthood was under an investigation launched by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), a far-right lawmaker who also proposed legislation that would have required 9/11 first responders to prove they weren’t terrorists before being compensated for their medical problems. Stearn’s probe came following a report by a pro-life group alleging violations of state and local laws by Planned Parenthood, which denies using any of its $360 million annual federal funding for abortions. It is banned from doing so under the 1976 Hyde Amendment.

Planned Parenthood does perform abortions, but these procedures are but a tiny part of what the health services provider does. According to the Los Angeles Times, over the past five years Planned Parenthood has provided 4 million breast exams and 6,400 mammogram referrals. The San Jose Mercury News reports that women with no health insurance make up 97% of Planned Parenthood patients. The $700,000 that Komen gave the group in 2011 to provide 170,000 poor women with potentially life-saving preventive care would have been sorely missed. It would certainly have cost lives.

Top Susan G. Komen officials began quitting in protest almost immediately after Brinker announced her stunning decision to end funding. Dr. Kathy Plesser, a Manhattan radiologist on the charity’s medical advisory board, was among the first to announce her resignation.

“I’m a physician and my interest is women’s health, and I am disturbed by Komen’s decision because I am a very strong advocate for serving under-served women,” Dr. Plesser told the Huffington Post. “Eliminating this funding will mean there’s no place for these women to go. Where are these women to go to have a mammography? Do they not deserve to have mammography?”

Mollie Williams, Komen’s top public health official, and Deb Anthony, executive director of Komen’s Los Angeles County chapter, also stepped down in protest. Donations to Planned Parenthood, including a $250,000 gift from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, poured in in the wake of Brinker’s now-rescinded decision to end funding.

“Politics have no place in health care,” Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement. “Breast cancer screening saves lives and hundreds of thousands of women rely on Planned Parenthood for access to care. We should be helping women access that care, not placing barriers in their way.”

There has also been a wave of public indignation over Brinker’s original decision.

But now none of that matters, as the women who need the services provided by Planned Parenthood and funded by the generosity of charities like Susan G. Komen for the Cure will not be neglected. It was the right thing to do; Moral Low Ground applauds Brinker’s change of heart.



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