In the News

Komen reversal frees up Q-C grants

Friday, February 3, 2012
Deirdre Cox Baker
Quad City

Friday’s decision by the Susan G. Komen breast cancer advocacy organization to reverse a decision that cuts funding to Planned Parenthood is being shared with the nation’s 122 affiliates, including the Quad-City organization.

“This decision will enable us to consider all grant applications and to continue to make funding decisions that meet the needs of our community,” said Christina McNamara-Schmidt, a spokeswoman for the Komen Quad-Cities affiliate.

“We want to apologize to the American public for the recent decision,” said Nancy G. Brinker, the founder and CEO of the Susan G. Komen For the Cure Foundation, based in Texas, in a statement posted on the organization’s website (komen.org).

In the statement from her and the Komen board of directors, Brinker said Komen will continue to fund requests from Planned Parenthood.

The statement continued: “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.”

It has been reported that Planned Parenthood is being investigated by U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., working with anti-abortion activists, over accusations that Planned Parenthood is using federal funds for abortions, an allegation the organization denies.

Planned Parenthood also issued a statement Friday expressing appreciation for Komen’s latest act.

“The outpouring of support for women in need of lifesaving breast cancer screenings this week has been astonishing and is a testament to our national compassion and sincerity,” Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said on the organization’s website, plannedparenthood.org.

In recent weeks, Richards said, the “treasured relationship” between her organization and the Komen Foundation has been challenged, and she is heartened that the two can continue to work in partnership toward a shared commitment to breast health for the most underserved women.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland has a grant request ready to send to the Komen Quad-Cities affiliate, said Jill June, the president and CEO of the agency’s office with headquarters in Des Moines.

Clinics operated by Planned Parenthood around Iowa — including one in Bettendorf — provided 23,000 breast health screenings and exams to women in the state last year, June said.

Planned Parenthood received $8,000 last year from Komen Quad-Cities, according to an official at the Des Moines offices. That money went to the “Care for Yourself” program in Muscatine to pay for breast health exams, screenings and educational efforts for low-income women and those without health insurance.

Clients of the program in Muscatine include women of Hispanic descent, and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health issued a statement Friday saluting Komen’s latest action.

“This decision will undoubtedly save lives as Komen funds to Planned Parenthood health centers provide breast cancer screenings to women who have no other health-care options,” said Jessica González-Rojas, the executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.

“We celebrate this just decision and the preventative care that it will provide to Latinas across the country.”

  For Latinas in particular, access to preventative care is crucial. Hispanic women are 20 percent more likely to die from breast cancer when compared with non-Hispanic white women, even when diagnosed at a similar age and stage, and are twice as likely to go without health insurance, according to a recent study by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the Quad-Cities, the Komen affiliate is focused on organizing the June 9 Komen Quad-Cities Race for the Cure event in Moline, which is the organization’s biggest fundraiser.A significant increase in both the number of participants and fundraising efforts is expected, McNamara-Schmidt said.


UPDATE: From the Associated Press: NEW YORK  — After three days of controversy, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast-cancer charity says it is reversing its decision to cut breast-screening grants to Planned Parenthood.

“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,” a Komen statement said.

As first reported by The Associated Press on Tuesday, Komen had adopted criteria excluding Planned Parenthood from grants because it was under government investigation, notably a probe launched in Congress at the urging of anti-abortion groups.

Komen said Friday it would change the criteria so it wouldn’t apply to such investigations.

“We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants,” the statement said.


UPDATE: The Associated Press is reporting that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure has reversed its decision to end grants to Planned Parenthood.


EARLIER STORY: Susan Charles says she will donate to Planned Parenthood for the first time in her life.

Debra Sikkema applauds the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, saying it has made a "courageous decision" to stop granting money to Planned Parenthood.

Both Quad-City area women weighed in Thursday after the Komen organization, the nation's best-known breast cancer awareness and research organization, decided to quit funding the Planned Parenthood Federation's breast health programs for low-income and uninsured women.

Charles, a cancer survivor from Bettendorf, said the Komen decision is a "small minority of people imposing their will on all women."

Sikkema, a breast cancer survivor from LeClaire, said the Komen decision "is a monumental stand for morals and righteousness. ... Komen is in the business of trying to save lives, right?"

Komen said it scrapped its Planned Parenthood grants because new internal rules prohibit it from funding organizations that are under investigation.

Planned Parenthood - which describes itself as the nation's leading sexual and reproductive health-care provider and advocate - is being investigated by U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., working with anti-abortion activists, over accusations that Planned Parenthood is using federal funds for abortions.

Planned Parenthood denies the allegation.

Komen representatives in the Quad-Cities said Thursday that they have heard little about the controversy at their Davenport office.

"Our affiliate office has only received a handful of calls and emails in regard to this issue," said Christina McNamara-Schmidt, a spokeswoman for the Komen Quad-Cities affiliate. "We are very fortunate that our community is focused on our mission."

Komen hosts its annual Race for the Cure during early June in Moline, attracting thousands of runners and walkers to raise funds and awareness for the cause.

Jill June, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland in Des Moines, was shocked to learn of Komen's decision, she said, citing a long partnership between the two organizations nationwide. Their mutual goal is to reduce the incidence of breast cancer, she added.

Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa provided 23,000 breast health screenings and exams last year to women throughout the state, including at the clinic it operates in Bettendorf, June said.

The debate, she said, is about the politics of destruction interfering with women's health.

"It's sad," June said. "Women need us, and they need both of these organizations."

Komen has helped fund Planned Parenthood and its local affiliates since 2005 - providing nearly $700,000 nationally in 2011.

Komen's recent action has prompted a flood of donations to Planned Parenthood, including at the Des Moines headquarters, Planned Parenthood officials say.

Those donations - including $250,000 from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and another $250,000 from a Dallas couple - are expected to make up for the shortfall caused by Komen's decision.

Planned Parenthood received $8,000 last year from the Komen Quad-Cities organization, according to an official at its Des Moines headquarters. The money went to a "Care for Yourself" program in Muscatine that pays for breast health exams, screenings and educational efforts for low-income women and those without insurance.

Regionally, the Komen affiliate provides a voucher program for women in an eight-county, bistate service area. Komen Quad-Cities has raised more than $4.9 million since the first Race for the Cure was held in 1990. In 2011, a total of $500,000 was raised, McNamara-Schmidt said.

Critics of the Komen organization note that Karen Handel, who manages the group's public policy arm, ran for governor of Georgia as a Republican in 2010, pledging to take away Planned Parenthood's state funding. She lost the election and joined Komen in 2011.

"Cancer does not know the difference between conservative and liberal, Republican or Democrat," June said. "We are in the business of caring for women, not judging them."

McNamara-Schmidt sees "absolutely" no effect from the controversy on Komen Quad-Cities.

"Komen strongly adheres to its mission to provide breast health services to all women in need," she said.

She and her colleagues are planning the June 9 Komen Quad-Cities Race for the Cure event, and they expect a "significant increase" in both the number of participants and in fundraising, she said.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)