Bloomberg News

Planned Parenthood Gains Online Push for Komen Funds

February 14, 2012

(Corrects location for Credo in 13th paragraph.)

Feb. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Planned Parenthood Federation of America may have already replaced the $680,000 in funding it lost from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation for its breast-cancer prevention programs, the group said today.

Riding a wave of Internet appeals, Planned Parenthood received pledges of $400,000 from 6,000 donors as of 2 p.m. yesterday, said Tait Sye, a spokesman. Three large donors also surfaced: The Amy and Lee Fikes’ Foundation, run by the head of closely-held Bonanza Oil Co. in Dallas, pledged $250,000; New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he’ll match the next $250,000 given and Credo, a mobile-phone company, promised $200,000.

The decision by the Dallas-based Komen foundation has spurred a tsunami of online comment and petitions that added political fuel to the dispute and involved corporate funders for Komen, including Yoplait, the French yogurt maker, among others.

“This has been a contentious issue,” said Chief Executive Officer Nancy Brinker of Komen in a conference call.

Her organization initiated a review of granting criteria in 2010, and included a clause denying money to any organization under investigation with a unanimous vote of Komen’s board, she said. Brinker denied that the funding drop came about because Planned Parenthood provides abortions.

The foundation has cited an investigation by Representative Cliff Stearns, a Florida Republican and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, into whether Planned Parenthood is illegally using government money for abortions as the reason it withdrew the funding.

Questions Asked

Some other grantees “probably do” provide abortions, Brinker said. “We ask a lot of questions” of grantees, “but that’s not one of them.” Funding for Planned Parenthood is less than 1 percent of the $93 million in community health grants that Komen provides, she said.

Three Planned Parenthoods in Northern Colorado, Waco, Texas, and Orange County, California will continue to get funding because they’re the only providers in their area, Brinker said. Another 16 have been cut off, she said.

An emergency fund created by Planned Parenthood yesterday will help local Planned Parenthood health centers continue offering breast-cancer screenings, education and mammogram referrals in rural and underserved communities, the New York- based group said in a statement yesterday.

Most online comments about the Komen Foundation’s decision were downbeat, 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.

Negative Comments

Two-thirds of more than 3,600 sentiments expressed online about the split were negative, with people calling it “outrageous,” and saying it did “irreparable harm” to the organization, NetBase said.

A posting on Facebook, a social media website, touting Yoplait’s connection with the Komen-sponsored Race for the Cure drew some angry responses from users upset with the decision. Greg Zimprich, a spokesman, said in an e-mailed response to questions that the company has “a long history of supporting women in the fight against breast cancer” and wasn’t involved in Komen’s decision on the grant.

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. MoveOn is planning other efforts to pressure Komen to restore funding, she said, declining to provide further details. San Francisco-based Credo, Planned Parenthood’s largest corporate funder, also has a petition.

Thankskomen.com

Those petitions were countered by groups such as thankskomen.com, which said it opposed Planned Parenthood, invited people to give their personal information and have the option of being kept informed about “pro-life developments.”

The decision by the Komen foundation spurred criticism from women’s health groups after Planned Parenthood said the move was prompted by pressure from anti-abortion groups. Planned Parenthood advocates abortion rights and provides abortion services. It also offers breast exams and mammogram referrals.

The Komen foundation said in a statement yesterday its decision has been “widely mischaracterized” and wasn’t politically motivated. Komen adopted more stringent eligibility and performance criteria for recipients of community grants after a review that started in 2010, the foundation said.

Komen Hire

Some of the political context has centered on the Komen group’s April hiring of Karen Handel as senior vice president of public policy. Handel joined the organization after an unsuccessful campaign for governor in Georgia.

In that race, Handel wrote on her blog that she would eliminate any state grants for organizations such as Planned Parenthood which, she wrote, “I do not support.”

Handel’s blog posting was a response to a campaign attack targeting her 2005 vote, as a county commissioner, approving a $425,000 grant for Planned Parenthood. She defended that vote in the same posting as support for pass-through funding of state and federal dollars for breast and cervical cancer screening. Handel did not return a call to Komen seeking comment.

Brinker, who is also a founder of Komen, served as ambassador to Hungary from 2001 to 2003 under George W. Bush’s administration, according to the embassy’s website. She was chief of protocol from September 2007 until the end of his term in office, according the state department website.

Pink Ribbons

Along with its funding program, Komen is known for the pink ribbons it first distributed to all breast cancer survivors and participants of the Komen New York City Race for the Cure in 1991, according to the group’s website. The next year, Self magazine enlisted cosmetics giants to distribute ribbons in New York stores during breast cancer awareness month in October.

The group’s latest decision drew praise from Washington- based Family Research Council, an opponent of abortion rights.

“Susan G. Komen’s decision to stop funding the abortion industry is good news for women seeking help dealing with breast cancer,” said Tony Perkins, the council president, in a statement. “This is also good news for the lives of many unborn babies.”

The move “will make Komen more effective” in fighting breast cancer, said U.S. Senator David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican who last year urged Brinker to stop funding Planned Parenthood.

“Komen does tremendous good by supporting education and research to fight breast cancer, and it was clear that their association with Planned Parenthood was unnecessary to advance that core mission,” in part because the group’s clinics don’t own or operate mammography equipment, Vitter said yesterday in a statement on his website.

‘Alarmed and Saddened’

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, urged the Komen group to renew the funding.

“We are alarmed and saddened that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation appears to have succumbed to political pressure,” Richards said in a statement posted on the group’s website yesterday. “Our greatest desire is for Komen to reconsider this policy and recommit to the partnership on which so many women count.”

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 Planned Parenthood clinics in the past five years, Planned Parenthood said.

The donation from the Fikes foundation was made “so that their health centers across the country can continue to put the real needs of women ahead of right wing ideology,” according to a statement on the group’s website. Lee Fikes did not return a call to the offices of Bonanza Oil seeking comment.

Saving Lives

“Politics has no place in health care,” Bloomberg, the New York mayor, said in the statement about his donation. “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.” Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

As much as 75 percent of the net proceeds generated by the Komen group are used to fund breast cancer education, treatment, and screening projects within local communities, according to the foundation’s financial statement for the year ended March 31, 2011. The remainder funds breast cancer research and project grants on a national level, the group said in the statement.

Komen’s decision prompted California State Senator Alex Padilla, a Democrat who has touted the group’s causes since 2010 as part of the “Pink Tie Guy” program, to quit the post.

‘Untenable Position’

“Komen has placed its supporters in the untenable position of aligning themselves with acquiescence to the agenda of the religious right, or aligning themselves with health-care and breast-cancer organizations that will not bow to such pressures,” Padilla said in an e-mail. “The choice is clear to me. I choose the latter.”

The Komen foundation’s move appeared to be a “direct result of years of pressure from opponents of women’s health care,” said New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

“Planned Parenthood helps tens of thousands of women nationwide identify breast cancer early when there is the best chance of successful treatment,” Quinn, a Democrat, said in an e-mail. “I’m disappointed that an organization which has done so much good for women and their health has capitulated to anti- choice ideologues and made a terribly damaging decision.”

--With assistance from Molly Peterson and James Rowley in Washington, Margaret Newkirk in Atlanta, Drew Armstrong in New York, and Ryan Flinn in San Francisco. Editors: Reg Gale, Adriel Bettelheim

To contact the reporters on this story: Elizabeth Lopatto in New York at elopatto@bloomberg.net; Anna Edney in Washington at aedney@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net


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