Susan G. Komen Foundation Reverses Decision To Defund Planned Parenthood

In a move that is likely to only drag it further into the culture wars, the Susan G. Komen Foundation has reversed its decision from earlier this week to cut off grants to Planned Parenthood:

(Reuters) – Susan G. Komen for the Cure said on Friday it was retreating from a decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion and birth control services, and apologized for a move that thrust the world’s largest breast cancer charity into a deeply politicized controversy.

Here’s the statement from Komen President Nancy Brinker:

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.The events of this week have been deeply unsettling for our supporters, partners and friends and all of us at Susan G. Komen. 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.

Our only goal for our granting process is to support women and families in the fight against breast cancer. 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.

It is our hope and we believe it is time for everyone involved to pause, slow down and reflect on how grants can most effectively and directly be administered without controversies that hurt the cause of women. We urge everyone who has participated in this conversation across the country over the last few days to help us move past this issue. We do not want our mission marred or affected by politics – anyone’s politics.

Starting this afternoon, we will have calls with our network and key supporters to refocus our attention on our mission and get back to doing our work. We ask for the public’s understanding and patience as we gather our Komen affiliates from around the country to determine how to move forward in the best interests of the women and people we serve.

We extend our deepest thanks for the outpouring of support we have received from so many in the past few days and we sincerely hope that these changes will be welcomed by those who have expressed their concern.

In the end, this strikes me as the wisest choice for Komen considering the amount of ire its decision hard garnered from longtime supporters and women’s health groups that have traditionally been Komen allies. At the same time, just as the decision earlier this week provoked an uprour on the left, I am betting that this decision will provoke an uproar on the right.

Update: Greg Sargent read the press release and questioned how much it actually committed to future Planned Parenthood funding, so he talked to a member of the Komen Board:

I just got off the phone with a Komen board member, and he confirmed that the announcement does not mean that Planned Parenthood is guaranteed future grants — a demand he said would be “unfair” to impose on Komen. He also said the job of the group’s controversial director, Nancy Brinker, is safe, as far as the board is concerned.

As some were quick to point out, the statement put out by Komen doesn’t really clarify whether Planned Parenthood will actually continue to get money from the group. The original rationale for barring Planned Parenthood was that it was under investigation (a witch-hunt probe undertaken by GOP Rep Cliff Stearns). Komen said today that the group would “amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political.”

Does that mean Planned Parenthood will get Komen grants in the future?

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 humaniatrian 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.

So is it really a reversal? I suppose time will tell.



FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, US Politics, , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. legion says:

    I don’t see this helping in the long run. Basically, the leadership of the Komen Foundation made a conscious decision to turn their charitable foundation into a PAC. While technically they have every right to do this, it’s insanely stupid and short-sighted. Anybody can feel good about supporting a charity; only people who agree with your political agenda will support a PAC. Every commercial product out there that sports a pink ribbon will now be tied – in the public’s mind – to a right-wing political agenda as surely as if they bought ads on Beck, Rush, and Hannity.

    The Komen board took something they had spent decades building up into one thing and chose to burn their credibility down to the ground for political points. If I had to guess, I’d suspect that failed gubernatorial candidate wanted to use this as a splashy stepping-stone to becoming the next Palin or Bachmann.

    When they say this decision had anything at all to do with women’s health or fiduciary responsibility, it’s a lie. This was for politics and nothing else. Again, while they technically have every right to do what they did, it’s tragic and appalling that they chose to sacrifice everything they had built up, and every shred of credibility they ever had, to put politics ahead of the health of low income women – ahead of actual charity. So even if they back off and say it was for their Christian ideals – they’re still lying.

  2. EddieInCA says:


    In 48 hours they took a respected brand and turned it into shit…

    and for what?


    Bad, bad, bad decision initially.

    They just made it worse by reversing course because now they’ve pissed off BOTH sides.

  3. Tillman says:

    I don’t know. Planned Parenthood got a $250,000 donation from Mayor Bloomberg, and the Komen Foundation received a large deal of donations in the two days it didn’t support Planned Parenthood. Sure, it cost some high-level staffers resigning, but all in all they seem to have made money off the controversy.

  4. Nikki says:

    This reversal won’t help because the Foundation is still de-funding embryonic stem cell research; it hasn’t reversed its decision on that. Apparently, the Foundation is more concerned with abortion than it is with finding a cure for breast cancer.

    The Race for the Cure is done. And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer “charity” organization. The Komen Foundation lost its way a long time ago,

  5. Nikki says:

    @Tillman: Raising money isn’t the issue. Reputation is. Komen’s brand is easily identifiable (the pink ribbon) and it is used far and wide. Consumers will have no problem avoiding products stamped with the Komen brand. Sponsors will flee if the Komen brand is hurting their products. Even the president of NOW is predicting that, within 5 years, Komen will either be gone or greatly reduced in size and influence.

  6. DRS says:

    Doubling down on the stupid! They will be a long time digging themselves out of this hole.

  7. Hurling Dervish says:

    Totally agree with EddieinCA. But I am also skeptical about whether they are changing course. In her dreadful interview with Andrea Mitchell, she kept emphasizing that they were going to continue to fund existing grants to Planned Parenthood. I took this as mealy-mouthed hokum which basically meant that they would live up to their contracts. She also said in that interview that Planned Parenthood could apply for future grants, if eligible. She is repeating the same lines here. I am thinking what they may really be doing is re-writing future eligibility so that Planned Parenthood can’t qualify. That would be a less drastic measure than announcing Planned Parenthood had been cut, but it has the same effect. And meanwhile, Kamen avoids litigation by continuing to fund its commitment.

    Bottom line, though, as EddieinCa points out, is that everyone hates them now, and there’s no going back. By the way, Brinker has to be the worst spokeswoman for an organization since Leona Helmsley.

  8. legion says:

    So, if I understand this, they’re going to finish the current year’s grant, but they’re explicitly keeping the rule on no grants to orgs under investigation – which only affects and was only written to affect PP – so there’s every likelihood no future grants will be made.

    If that’s correct, they’ve just pissed off every SoCon that cheered the original de-funding, and haven’t appeased anyone who was pissed off yesterday. By only backing off half-way, they’ve likely lost what little support they had ever gained with this move – they’ve proven they can’t be trusted by either side. Smoooooth.

  9. Tillman says:

    @Nikki: You say raising money isn’t the issue, and then you write about sponsors and consumers and such. It’s not a zero-sum game where Komen loses reputation irrevocably, we’re talking one group in the population invested with Komen supporting Planned Parenthood. Something tells me the average person doesn’t care all that much.

    From my vantage point, their quick reversal will probably cause less harm than most are predicting in this thread. The donations Komen received in the two days it didn’t support Planned Parenthood shows there’s a market on either side of the culture war for breast cancer awareness.

  10. Brummagem Joe says:


    No they’ve also said they’d amend their rules at least if I understood it correctly.

  11. Septimius says:

    Does anyone else find it unseemly that 26 United States Senators publicly criticised a private charity for the manner in which it directed its donations?

  12. Rob in CT says:

    Komen cuts off a few hundred K (a tiny portion of their firehose of funding) because PP does some abortions (the congressional “investigation” excuse is BS and we all know it). PP will probably benefit in the short run at least. I know I’m planning on giving PP some money this year, whereas in the past I’d never donated to them.

  13. WR says:

    @Septimius: “Does anyone else find it unseemly that 26 United States Senators publicly criticised a private charity for the manner in which it directed its donations? ”


    There should have been at least 53 signatures on that letter.

  14. legion says:

    @Septimius: It’s unseemly that a charity has been converted into a PAC.

  15. David M says:

    @Septimius: I’d go beyond that and wonder why there aren’t 100 signatures.

  16. Nikki says:

    @Tillman: You state:

    You say raising money isn’t the issue, and then you write about sponsors and consumers and such.

    Raising money really isn’t the issue. Komen will continue to raise money for as long as it continues to exist. The effectiveness of its fundraising is depends exclusively on its reputation. Komen had a sterling reputation which allowed it to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for its causes. That reputation is now gone. Komen picked a side in the abortion wars and has now cut off a pretty good size of its donors, mainly those advocates who are laser-focused on women’s health issues.

    Sucks to be Komen Foundation.

  17. Septimius says:


    “It’s unseemly that a charity has been converted into a PAC.”

    That makes absolutely no sense.

  18. James in LA says:

    @Septimius:Komen invested over $200 million in stock between 2010 and 2011, while spending just 21% of all revenue on research. The rest was spent on Pink and enriching those who tend the pile of money. They do not strike me as particularly charitable, and they rather shoved the Pink down the country’s throat for profit. See: the NFL in October in which everything is hosed down with Pepto Bismol.

    There are much more efficient ways to fight cancer.

  19. legion says:

    @Septimius: Last week, the Komen Foundation was a charitable organization based on the idea of fighting breast cancer through facilitating screenings for as many women as possible, leading to early detection & treatment, as well as seeking a cure and/or better treatments for the condition in general. Now, thanks to the decisions of a small handful of people at the top of the Foundation, it’s become a leading light in the anti-abortion movement, converting its previous mission into a political agenda.

    Planned Parenthood spends less than 3% of its budget on abortion services. Komen’s money went only to facilitating breast cancer screenings and treatments. These are documentable facts. Komen’s pulling their money will not affect the legality of abortions in the slightest, but it will impact PP’s ability to offer services of any kind to poor & indigent women. Komen is attempting to make a political point by walking away from their own mission statement and by putting countless women at increased risk of undetected breast cancer. No matter how you feel about abortion, this is an unconscionable (and un-Christian) way to make a statement.

  20. JohnMcC says:

    Ms Brinker was GWBush’s ambassador to Hungary which indicates she was probably a very significant donor to his campaign. Ms Handel is a described conservative repub politician from Georgia. There was no reason to be shocked when they chose to join the ‘kulturekampf’ against Planned Parenthood. They enlisted voluntarily, fought an extremely stupid war and now will pay the price. Somewhere on the interwebs I saw that they had chosen to become the “Fox News” of charities. God bless ’em, I hope they enjoy what they’ve done.

  21. legion says:

    Hey Doug, how are you on tax law? What does it take for a charitable foundation to lose it’s tax-exempt status from political grandstanding? Has Komen gotten anywhere near a line-crossing with this?

  22. David M says:

    @legion: I can’t imagine this is anywhere close to that. Dumb? Absolutely. Illegal? No.

  23. legion says:

    @David M: I’m not saying it’s illegal, I’m just curious as to where the actual line is between a charity and a PAC – what can/can’t they do before the IRS starts asking questions. FWIW, I suspect Komen is still well within the bounds of charitable org operation – this is just more of a technical question…

  24. legion says:


    the “Fox News” of charities

    That phrase just utterly chills my soul.

  25. Septimius says:

    How dare the Susan G. Komen Foundation, or anyone else for that matter, decide to stop funding Planned Parenthood. Don’t they know that money rightly belongs to Planned Parenthood and that once you give grant money to Planned Parenthood you may never stop for any reason. Don’t they realize that Planned Parenthood is the only organization in the U.S. that provides cancer screenings for poor women. Without the $680,000 from the Komen Foundation, millions of poor women will die!

  26. David M says:

    @Septimius: That’s a little off. They singled out Planned Parenthood for political reasons, using several different excuses, all of which were transparently bogus. If they still were awarding grants that Planned Parenthood should have been eligible for, why shouldn’t people disapprove?

  27. MM says:

    @Septimius: if they attempted to legislate who SGK donated to, I would be disturbed. Had they tried to pass a law legislating SGK donation, I’d be enraged. Since they didn’t, they have th Sam right to weigh in thy you do.

  28. Turner says:

    @Nikki: @Septimius:
    I have a few SGK items: shirt, dvd player, cap, and car magnet. I will still continue to use these and will probably buy more. I like their color scheme. I also liked the support that NASCAR drivers have given – some even drove pink cars. I love pink – even though I am a man. This whole fiasco could have been avoided by the SGK management simpley designating which aspects of PP they would continue to support – a sort of menu selective policy. That is the way many of my co-workers and I do when it comes to donating to United Way.

  29. Septimius says:

    @David M: First of all, Planned Parenthood is not some apolitical organization. They are at the center of the most divisive political issue in the country and they receive hundreds of millions in government money every year. Why is it only political when SGK stops giving PP money? And, even if it is political, who cares? SGK should be able to direct its money where it sees fit, without fear that one-quarter of the United States Senate will publicly criticize its decisions.

  30. Septimius says:

    @MM: Some city councilman in Cleveland wanted to pull SGK’s permit for its annual Race for the Cure. Do you think that’s ok? Elected officials using the force of government to punish a cancer charity because the charity doesn’t give to some preferred organization?

  31. David M says:

    @Septimius: Abortion and breast cancer are not related, Komen really has no business even taking the issue into consideration if they are a breast cancer charity. The only thing that should matter is if Planned Parenthood can help screen women for breast cancer effectively. Komen’s actions pretty clearly indicate that wasn’t an actual concern, as they just wanted to make a political statement.

  32. matt says:

    @Septimius: PP is only at the center due to nutcases who focus solely on a service that accounts for a tiny percentage of PP’s work. PP averages only about 100ish million a yeah not hundreds of millions and please don’t try to trot out that tired lie about PP getting billions from 2002-2008 (real number was $657 million TOTAL over 7 years).

    Something I find disturbing is your insistence that the constitution of this great country doesn’t apply to certain people. Certainly the first amendment right extends to all citizens of this country.

    In my area PP is the only reasonably priced provider of women’s health services and men’s health services. I’ve been to PP and I will go there again if I need to.

  33. matt says:

    Oops didn’t mean to imply that PP provided general practitioner health services just reproductive and cancer screening related services.