Local reaction to Komen decision to restore funding to Planned Parenthood

Local women’s health activists cheered the news that Susan G. Komen for the Cure had reversed its recent decision to no longer issue breast cancer prevention grants to Planned Parenthood. The breast cancer charity was harshly criticized this week by breast cancer survivors, members of Congress, and even their own affiliates in New England and elsewhere for playing politics with women’s health.

Komen—which sponsors walks and races to raise money for breast cancer research—initially said it halted the grants because Planned Parenthood was under investigation by Congress and the charity’s policy is not to issue grants to organizations being investigated.

But that explanation didn’t sit well with Planned Parenthood supporters who accused Komen of caving to those who don’t want to see any financial support given to abortion providers like Planned Parenthood—even grant money that’s used for breast exams and mammogram referrals.

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Planned Parenthood supporters donated $3 million dollars, far more than the usual donations, in the past three days since Komen first announced that it was cutting off grants.

The Komen Affiliate in Massachusetts issued a statement saying the initial decision to cut-off future grants to Planned Parenthood—$680,000 in funds were issued to Planned Parenthood affiliates last year—was made at the national level with no input from affiliates.

“We are proud to have stood with our supporters and Affiliates across the country who had respectfully requested Komen National revise the change to the grant criteria. We could not, in good conscience, abide by this new policy,” said Ronni Cohen-Boyar, executive director of the affiliate and Chris O’Conner, board president, in the statement.

While Komen isn’t currently providing grants to the seven Massachusetts Planned Parenthood clinics, the two are discussing future collaborations on breast cancer education initiatives, according to Cohen-Boyar and O’Conner.

Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts said in a statement that the group was “grateful” that Komen clarified its grant-making criteria, and spokesperson Tricia Wajda told me that her office had been flooded with phone calls and emails with people expressing their support for Planned Parenthood and anger at Komen.

“It was stunning and amazing,” she said, “to hear from so many people who had never articulated their support of Planned Parenthood before now.” She also said she was relieved that the two national organizations had made amends. “In this political climate, organizations like Komen and Planned Parenthood need to be working together and not against each other,” Wajda said, “and it sort of felt like that this week.”

Some, though, may not be ready to forgive Komen so quickly. “Since my primary charitable giving has always been to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer for a Cure I was outraged to learn of their decision earlier this week,” wrote Jerilyn Hill, an administrative assistant at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in an email after the reversal was announced. “Personally I feel that Nancy Brinker and her Board of Directors should all be replaced. My giving may now be better served through the American Cancer Society.”