Remember when the Susan G. Komen Foundation cut off grants to Planned Parenthood for being under Congressional investigation — er, sorr, for not actually providing outcomes? Good times, good times:
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.
On a certain level, I get exactly what they mean. I think it is a fair point that suspending grants because of investigations should come from criminal probes — although there have been a few of those as well involving Planned Parenthood affiliates — even if granting agencies have the ability to decide on that criteria for themselves. Otherwise, any investigation in Congress for any particular purpose would get used to block legitimate charities from getting grants no matter what the motives behind the probe might be.
Still, Komen would be better off sticking with outcome-based criteria for grants. If Planned Parenthood performs the mammograms needed for screening, then certainly it’s a legitimate action to offer a grant funding that activity. If all they’re doing is providing referrals, though, why not just fund the organizations actually performing the mammograms that catch cancer early enough for treatment, as well as the organizations actually providing that treatment? The objection has been that the grants look much more like a method to fund abortions while asserting that Komen is only working on breast cancer, which is why so many people objected to the arrangement in the first place — and why critics applauded the move announced earlie this week.
The statement doesn’t actually commit to doing anything differently, if it is carefully read. All Komen is saying is that Planned Parenthood is still eligible for grants, having rescinded their suspension that was based on the Congressional probe, and that grants already approved would continue. Komen notes that they will still develop the guidelines that will help their funding directly impact their mission, and I’d bet that means that Planned Parenthood will still get a lot less money from Komen in the future, as most of their clinics don’t provide mammograms or treatments. This is just a more intelligent approach to the issue, and one that would not have created the political firestorm that arose this week had Komen taken it from the beginning.
Update: Greg Sargent read the statement the same way I did and contacted a Komen board member, who confirms that Komen isn’t going to guarantee Planned Parenthood any future funding:
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.”
In other words, grants will likely be outcome-based, and that would keep Planned Parenthood on the outside in most cases. Sargent also reports that the board strongly supports Brinker through this episode and her job is not in danger, which would also tend to support that conclusion.
Update II: Jen Rubin provides another data point that makes this policy clear:
The Post interviewed Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure CEO Nancy Brinker and President Elizabeth Thompson on Thursday. At that time, they confirmed that their group wants to stick to its core mission and not simply funnel funds through another entity that doesn’t itself provide breast cancer screening. (“We have decided not to fund, wherever possible, pass-through grants. We were giving them money, they were sending women out for mammograms. What we would like to have are clinics where we can directly fund mammograms.”) We don’t knowwhether that rationale is now null and void.
Pardon me, but this is nuts. Planned Parenthood can raise its own money (which it did in spades in the wake of the flap). Those who want to give to a breast cancer charity can donate with the peace of mind that their money will be used to fight breast cancer. (Donors did so generously as a result of the controversy.) Now Planned Parenthood’s bosses have every right under current law to do what they do and raise money to fund their organization. But shame on them for intimidating other groups that might contemplate the same move as the Susan G. Komen Foundation made.
It sounds to me like this statement was carefully crafted to underscore that policy, not reverse it, as Sargent discovered.