February 3rd, 2012

The Komen Foundation: an Apology, Not a Reversal

When an Apology is Just an Apology

The Apology
Although the Komen Foundation has apologized, it has not actually reversed its decision. It will honor grants to which Komen has previously committed to for 2012 but it does not say anything about future funding.

Komen Foundation founder Nancy Brinker said, “Amending our criteria will ensure that politics has no place in our grant process. We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.” This battle is far from over.

As The Huffington Post points out, Komen’s apology is not a promise to renew Planned Parenthood grants. It simply says, “continue to fund existing grants” to the organization — which it had already planned on doing — and to make it eligible for future grants. At no point in the press release does Brinker promise that Komen will renew grants to Planned Parenthood.”

The Explanantion
The Komen Foundation claimed the reason it had cut Planned Parenthood funding was because it had established new criteria for grant giving and that it would no longer give grants to organizations under investigation by local, state or federal governments.

The problem with that explanation is that the Komen Foundation currently gives $7.5 million in grants to the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center for cancer research; and as we all know, Penn State is under investigation. That grant would appear to violate  that new rule at Komen. (Mother Jones.) Oops.

Playing Politics with Women’s Health
There is no question that the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood was politically motivated.

It allowed political pressure—apparently coming from high up in its own organization—to betray its own 501(c)3 mission “…working together to save lives”.  The Komen Foundation launched an all-out attack on poor, young and uninsured women when it announced that it was cutting all grants to Planned Parenthood. This grant money was used by Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings.

This action was apparently taken at the direction of some right-wing extremist senior staff and board member.

In April 2011, Komen hired Karen Handel to be its new senior vice president for public policy. Handel’s extremist positions were not a secret. Handel had run unsuccessfully in 2010, on the Republican line, for governor of Georgia. Describing herself as a pro-life Christian, she ran on a platform to cut all public funding to Planned Parenthood even for non-abortion-related health services.

In addition, Nancy Brinker who is the founder of Komen, is a former Bush administration official, and we all remember the rabid anti-choice agenda of the Bush years. She is a major contriubtor to Republican officials.

Some Komen staff resigned after the decision was made in December.

The War on Women
Komen’s willingness to cut funding to Planned Parenthood highlights the ease with which a direct assault on women—particularly the poor, young and uninsured—can be launched.

The majority of those served by Planned Parenthood are uninsured. Unlike many private doctors, Planned Parenthood does not turn the poor and uninsured away.

Komen’s funding cuts would have directly attacked the wellbeing of the most vulnerable women. It was the Komen Foundation’s version of the Hyde Amendment.