News,  Politics

Did Komen really reverse itself?

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.


  • jigawatt

    “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.”

    I’d go further and say that if what you’re saying is right (and I’m not arguing that it’s not), then Komen basically pulled the wool over the MSM’s eyes, and without a whole lot of effort. Those reports you mention are buried way down on the double-digit pages while the front pages of cnn, msnbc, washpost, huffpo, etc, still say things like “KOMEN REVERSES ITSELF — WILL CONTINUE TO FUND PP”. As far as Jane Proabortion is concerned, a quick look at her media sources of choice will cause her to breathe a big sigh of relief — “Good, Komen’s back on OUR side! I can keep sending them money.”

  • yankeegospelgirl

    No, it’s pretty clear they’ve caved. Their initial excuse for cutting off funds was that PP was under congressional investigation, but now they’ve explicitly revised that requirement to apply only to organizations that have been OFFICIALLY accused. So even though PP’s hands are obviously dirty, and even though they’re under criminal investigation, SGK is bending over backwards with some kind of odd “innocent until proven guilty” revision so as to keep on funding them. To me, that’s decisive.

  • jmanenski

    jigawatt, so are you on the pro-cancer-killing-poor-women side? And yankeegospelgirl, PP is not under criminal investigation. They are under a baseless Congressional investigation, brought by a right wing nut job from Florida, that has gone nowhere.

  • Mitch

    Denny, I’ve been involved in the fight against breast cancer for a while now. Specifically, for the past 5 years I have served on the board of directors of a Dallas based non-profit that partners with medical facilities and physicians to provide breast cancer treatment to women (and men) who lack the funds and/or insurance to secure treatment. As a person who spends a lot of time struggling to obtain resources that will help to keep breast cancer from killing people, I am deeply offended by your recent posts regarding Komen and Planned Parenthood. In the name of your personal hyper-political zealotry, you have trivialized the struggle of advocates like me and far worse, the personal battles of patients who must fight not only a terrible disease but also financial adversity that often stands between them and the care they so desperately need.

  • Denny Burk


    Thanks for writing in. Which part is offensive? I just think it’s outrageous that Planned Parenthood would hold the our nation’s leading breast cancer charity hostage. Komen wants to prioritize its grants to facilities that offer mammograms. Planned Parenthood doesn’t offer mammograms, but only referrals.

    Also, who can blame Komen for wanting to get disentangled from America’s leading provider of elective Abortions. Komen’s mission is a noble one, and there are countless numbers of pro-life people that would want to be enthusiastic supporters. But it is tied-in with a group that profits from killing 300,000 innocent human beings every year. Komen doesn’t need the baggage that Planned Parenthood brings.

    As far as withholding donations is concerned, pro-lifers in the know have already been doing that. Last week, prolifers began giving to Komen again when they severed their relationship with Planned Parenthood. Now that Komen has reversed itself, prolifers are simply going to go back to what they were doing a week ago. Those who want to support breast cancer charities are going to have to look for one that isn’t going to funnel a percentage of their money to the abortion mills of Planned Parenthood.

    I think it’s a reasonable and principled position for prolifers to support charities that don’t violate their consciences.


    • Mitch


      Fair question. The answer is one that is personal to me because I take personal offense to your remarks. I find it offensive that you would support the cessation of funds that are used for important breast cancer screening and education services simply because the organization that provides those vital services also provides abortion services (which represent 3% of the total services Planned Parenthood provides).

      Now question to you? How in god’s name is Planned Parenthood holding Komen hostage? Komen can and does make difficult funding decisions all the time. This is hardly the first. It may just be the one you like the least.

      As to your statement that “Komen wants to prioritize its grants to facilities that offer mammograms. Planned Parenthood doesn’t offer mammograms, but only referrals.” I honestly have no idea what you are talking about and I have some idea about this because last year my organization received Komen funds and we don’t provide mammograms. In fact, we coordinate referrals just like PP does. So, your characterization just isn’t accurate. Also, education about screenings, risk factors and self exams are the first line of defense and are thus of key importance. That is a statement from our mutual friend who is a breast surgeon who treats this disease every day.

      As to PP being the “leading provider” of abortions, I think that’s technically correct so I’ll agree with you there. The bigger point on this part of your response is my largest question: how exactly does PP “profit” from providing abortion services? If they profited from the abortion services, why would it be necessary to obtain donations and grants to pay for them? That just doesn’t make sense.

      Pro-lifers who think their cause is worth making it difficult for poor breast cancer patients to receive services they need are certainly free to withhold their donations from Komen. Of course, Komen has and will continue to find plenty of money without the folks who spend Sundays listening to Albert Mohler, James Dobson and Pat Robertson. With that said, I have to disagree with your statement that “Those who want to support breast cancer charities are going to have to look for one that isn’t going to funnel a percentage of their money to the abortion mills of Planned Parenthood.” This is simply incorrect and people who want to support a breast cancer charity can (and most certainly will) continue to donate to Komen with full knowledge that Komen funds the important cancer screening services that PP provides.


    • Denny Burk

      Hey, Mitch. Thanks for the response.

      How is PP holding Komen hostage? For whatever reason, Komen did not want to provide future grants to PP. When Komen made its announcement, PP waged a vigorous PR campaign until Komen relented. It really does make PP look like the Hotel California of charitable donations.

      As far as the referrals are concerned, you know more than I do about these charities and what services they offer. It may very well be that Komen had ulterior motives in cutting off PP. Maybe there was more to it than simply prioritizing direct providers of mammograms. Pro-lifers have been boycotting Komen for year because of their ties to PP. Maybe Komen just didn’t want to be connected any longer to an organization that was costing them donors. In any case, they had donors on both sides of this issue to lose.

      The 3% figure that measures “services” is misleading, and Planned Parenthood likes to cite it in order to create the illusion that abortion services play a small role in their work. That figure conceals the fact that a single visitor may receive 4-5 “services” in a single visit: breast exam, contraceptives, family planning consultation, abortion, etc.

      When you count persons rather than services the figures look different. One out of every 10 women who come into Planned Parenthood get an abortion. And Planned Parenthood does about 320,000 abortions per year. That means that 1 in 4 of every abortion performed in the U.S. happens at a Planned Parenthood facility. Not only that, about 30-40% of Planned Parenthood’s 1 billion dollar annual budget comes from abortion services. Planned Parenthood makes a ton of money from abortions, plain and simple. There can be no moral or political neutrality when it comes to Planned Parenthood. It is the major engine for abortion in America today.

      For pro-lifers who care about the unborn, there is no reason to support breast cancer research in a way that subsidizes the leading provider of abortions in America. As you point out, there are other breast cancer charities, and pro-lifers can direct their donations to other groups that don’t force them to pay for organizations that profit from the killing of unborn children.

      You don’t have to agree with that point of you, but it is a principled one.


      • Mitch

        Hey Denny,

        I appreciate your thoughtful responses. I really do. This is starting to wear me out but there are a couple of points in your last message that I just have to address.

        The “hostage” thing just doesn’t play. The fact is that Komen is a prominent, sophisticated, and VERY well funded organization. They are every bit as equipped as Planned Parenthood to wage and/or fight a PR campaign. So, they, like everybody else, have to take responsibility for the decisions they make. I know that doesn’t really fit with the “Planned Parenthood is the boogie man” campaign but it’s the truth.

        The most recent number I can find is that PP collects about $164k per year in fees paid for abortions which is nowhere close to the 30-40% that you are quoting. This is a really wide margin so I’d like to politely and respectfully ask where you are getting the percentages you are quoting.


  • Ken

    As someone who has been involved for almost twenty years in the medical care of women (and a few men) afflicted with breast cancer and who has been distressed with the informal linkage between women’s health care and abortion “rights,” I was at first quite pleased with Komen’s announcement and then very dismayed to see the organization in apparent retreat before the baying of the media hounds. This new information gives me heart again, and I am grateful to Denny for posting on it.

    But I will never be fooled again by the media’s hypocrisy on bullying. It seems as though it is perfectly alright to bully so long as the victim has crossed a politically correct line.

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