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 antiabortion 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.
Although news that there would be no more Komen funding to Planned Parenthood for breast-health initiatives began circulating Tuesday, reports indicated that the policy had been enacted earlier, with past recipients being notified that funding was being cut.
"Our original desire was to fulfill our fiduciary duty to our donors by not funding grant applications made by organizations under investigation," Nancy Brinker, the chief executive officer of Komen, said in a statement today that was quoted by Bloomberg. "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."
Komen had withdrawn $680,000 in grants to Planned Parenthood.
As news began circulating that the noted cancer fund-raising charity was cutting funding to Planned Parenthood, donations began pouring in to the family planning organization while pink-ribbon crusaders vowed to cut Komen off.
Brinker appeared on YouTube to reiterate that the nonprofit was making its grant process more rigorous, and denouncing the "scurrilous accusations being hurled at this organization." But using social media, critics continued to throw brickbats, calling the decision a politically motivated sop to abortion foes.
And unlike past flaps - Komen has been booed for suing do-gooders who infringe on its trademarked "for the cure" - the controversy shows no signs of quieting.
None of the Philadelphia region's four Planned Parenthood affiliates — Southeastern Pennsylvania, Bucks County, South Jersey, and Delaware — had sought Komen funding in the last few years.
Indeed, last year only 19 of Planned Parenthood's 79 affiliates received funds from Komen for breast cancer screening and education. (Planned Parenthood says the money Komen gave in 2011, a total of $680,000, has been exceeded by a flood of donations in the last few days. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Amy and Lee Fikes Foundation of Dallas have each pledged $250,000.)
Komen said its latest decision reflects a new policy that prevents it from giving grant money to groups that are under federal investigation. Last fall, U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, an antiabortion Republican from Florida, launched an inquiry into Planned Parenthood, accusing it of using federal family planning funds for abortion services.
But after the Associated Press broke the story Tuesday, bloggers quickly reported that Komen's new policy was adopted in December, the month Handel came on board.
Kivi Leroux Miller, a North Carolina-based consultant on nonprofit marketing strategies, said Komen was "naive" to think it could distance itself from the abortion debate while doing the very thing that antiabortion Senate Republicans have been trying to do — defund Planned Parenthood.
"Komen has forever changed the way people will look at them," Miller said. "Until now, they have successfully stayed out of controversial areas of women's health care. They kept the message simple: save lives, race for the cure, pink ribbons. They've forever muddied that now. They've made it hard for women to figure out what they're about — and that makes it harder to raise money."