Mary Katharine Ham was right. Planned Parenthood is turning out to be “the Hotel California of charitable donations.” The Komen foundation has discovered that they can check in any time they like, but they will never be able to leave Planned Parenthood… so it seems.
In my piece that I wrote Friday for my website and the Baptist Press, I questioned whether or not Komen has really reversed its decision to defund Planned Parenthood. After reading headlines all day reporting definitively that Komen had caved, I wondered if I was the only one seeing that Komen had left the door open to deny future funds to Planned Parenthood.
After doing some research this evening, I found that I am not alone. In fact, both liberal and conservative writers have noticed that Komen may have given an apology but not a reversal. This observation seems to be confirmed by CEO Nancy Brinker’s public statements along with other remarks from Board members and executives at Komen. Pro-life blogger Jill Stanek has provided a nice round-up of these statements. Here are the excerpts you need to consider:
From The Huffington Post:
To be clear, Komen’s apology is not a promise to renew Planned Parenthood grants. It’s a promise to “continue to fund existing grants” to the organization — which it was already planning 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.
Will Neville writes at the abortion rights site RH Reality Check:
From the beginning, the Foundation has been clear that no current grants will be affected. As such, this is NOT a reversal of any kind.
Planned Parenthood will remain “eligible” for future grants, but the Komen Foundation has made no commitment to continue funding or to preserve its relationship with Planned Parenthood in years to come…
Whether the Komen Foundation’s statement does in fact signal a reversal of its policy towards Planned Parenthood remains to be seen. It is entirely possible that they intend to fund Planned Parenthood cancer screening services in the future, and we hope they do. It is equally possible that this is simply a public relations move designed to diffuse a lucrative brand from spiraling out of control – and the Komen Foundation will quietly reject future grant proposals from Planned Parenthood once they are out of the media spotlight.
A Washington Post reporter snagged an interview with Komen board member John Raffaelli. Note Raffaelli’s careful parsing of words:
I asked Komen board member John Raffaelli to respond to those who are now saying that the announcement doesn’t necessarily constitute a reversal until Planned Parenthood actually sees more funding. He insisted it would be unfair to expect the group to commit to future grants.
“It would be highly unfair to ask us to commit to any organization that doesn’t go through a grant process that shows that the money we raise is used to carry out our mission,” Raffaelli told me. “We’re a humanitarian organization. We have a mission. Tell me you can help carry out our mission and we will sit down at the table.”
Pushed on whether this means the new announcement wasn’t really a reversal, Raffaelli pushed back, arguing that Komen, in response to all the criticism, had removed politics from the grant-making process. “Is it really unclear that we’re changing the policy to address criticism?” he said.
Washington Post writer Ezra Klein also questions whether or not Komen has really reversed itself. Klein questioned a Komen executive directly, and got a cagey response:
So they are, perhaps, backing down. Or perhaps not. Yesterday, the Komen Foundation said the investigation was not the cause of their reduced support for Planned Parenthood, and that the real issue was that Planned Parenthood did not directly provide mammograms. This statement doesn’t address that concern at all. So it would appear to leave open the possibility that the foundation intends to reject Planned Parenthood’s future grant applications — albeit on less overtly political grounds.
I posed these questions to Leslie Aun, vice president for communications at the Komen Foundation. “I think our statement speaks for itself,” she replied. You can be the judge of that.
Did Komen reverse themselves or not? I think we are going to have to wait and see. If Komen approves future grants to Planned Parenthood, we’ll know the answer is yes. If they don’t, we’ll know the answer is no.
What is notable about today’s official release from Komen is what it didn’t say. It made no guarantees about future grants to Planned Parenthood, nor did it say anything about waiving Komen’s new policy limiting grants to direct providers of mammograms. Add to that the ambiguous statements from leadership at Komen, and you can see that this is still very much an open question.
Today’s press release from Komen may have been designed to get the press off their backs in the short term so that they can quietly refuse grants to Planned Parenthood later. We’ll see. In the meantime, I agree with Albert Mohler that there is no neutral ground when it comes to Planned Parenthood. Pro-lifers should still withhold donations from Komen until this matter is clarified.