By Ryan Buffa | firstname.lastname@example.org
After two of the largest advocates of women’s healthcare, the Susan G. Komen Foundation and Planned Parenthood, made amends after a potentially harmful decision, local branches believe it is an opportunity to strengthen relationships and refocus on important issues facing women’s healthcare.
“The experience of this week is going to renew and strengthen relationships on a local level,” North Florida Planned Parenthood CEO Staci Fox said. “It’s going to open up a new avenue for us to work together…”
With the surge of pressure from lawmakers and internal opposition, the world’s largest breast cancer organization, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, reversed a controversial decision on Friday that would have pulled funding from numerous Planned Parenthood projects.
“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 Komen Foundation said in a statement last Friday. “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.”
The original decision to pull funding from Planned Parenthood occurred earlier–in January–when the Komen Foundation said it would cut ties due to the current investigation of the organization’s “compliance with federal restrictions on funding abortions.”
The investigation, launched by Florida congressman Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns, began last September by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, a committee on which Stearns sits.
Planned Parenthood described Stearns in a statement as “one of the most militant anti-choice members of Congress.” The organization said he had been working to defund the organization due its abortion services.
However, in addition to abortion services, Planned Parenthood also provides free healthcare services such as STD testing, pap smears, birth control, men’s sexual healthcare, women’s reproductive health care and counseling for gender identity and LBGTs (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender).
After Planned Parenthood announced the Komen Foundation’s original decision to pull funding due to the investigation, 26 Democratic Senators signed a letter to ask Komen to reconsider the decision. Twenty-four hours after the announcement, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Planned Parenthood supporter, matched the potential lost funding and gave the organization a $250,000 donation. By last Friday, Planned Parenthood raised $3 million from supporters.
Planned Parenthood and other supporters and affiliates accused the Komen Foundation of succumbing to political pressure. However, the Komen Foundation denied those accusations.
“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,” the Komen Foundation said in a statement. “We do not want our mission marred or affected by politics — anyone’s politics.”
Fox said she thinks the Komen Foundation made the right choice.
“I think they didn’t expect that type of backlash, and it sounds to me like they did some careful thinking about what that means and what that means for women’s services and I’m really glad that they did,” she said.
Bruce Grob, executive director of the Susan G. Komen Foundation in Jacksonville, Fla., denied the accusation that the national headquarters decision were a result of political pressure, but rather “a decision that was made at national headquarters, as result of reviewing the way in which we distribute $93 million, [of donor dollars] and they wanted to be a little more exacting of how the grants were given and how they were [seen].”
However, Grub said not everyone internal to the Komen Foundation agreed with national headquarters’ decision.
“A lot of affiliates were talking with national about the decision and how it was made,” he said. “The wording of the decision initially was faulty.”
Grub said agrees with the new wording and amendment made by the Komen Foundation.
“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,” the foundation said in a statement.
Grub said he is happy with the outcome.
“After 30 years, Komen has been very true to women’s health and breast health. This thrusts everybody into a political tug of war that no one wanted to be in,” Grub said. “I’m glad they changed their mind and we can go back to working on our common goals.”
Fox believes the controversy will give the two organizations a new perspective on their relationship.
Grob agrees with Fox that this debacle will strengthen ties locally.
“I think it went through a bit of a roller coaster,” Grob said. “We have held for years a very strong relationship as advocates for women’s health care…I think it’s one of those things where we will come out stronger than before.”
The North Florida Planned Parenthood did not previously receive funding from the Komen Foundation, because they did not ask for it due to the support of individual donors and supporters.
When a woman walks into a Planned Parenthood facility, whatever the circumstance, a physical exam is given to check for overall healthcare, including a breast exam. The organization has provided approximately 2,000 breast exams out of the 10,000 individual patients that use their services.
“We did have an affiliate in south Florida that was [a recipient of Komen Funding] and 18 other callings that were thinking how they were able to provide these life saving cancer screenings for women without that funding and I’m so glad that they wont have to be dealing with that now,” Fox said.
The North Florida Planned Parenthood and the Komen Foundation in Jacksonville are already taking the advantage of the rekindled relationship in order to work together to promote women’s health care and promote awareness about the issues each organization is facing in congress.
Grub said the Komen Foundation wants to support and increase “the availability of health care…that goes beyond breast health…and creating affordable healthcare.”
“I think it creates an opportunity to highlight women’s healthcare and women’s access to it,” she said.
Fox and Grub have discussed working together on educational workshops and bringing in surrounding health organizations such as the Women’s Health Center in Jacksonville. Grub said it is “a kind of collective plan to bring us together to advocate.”
Fox said she is excited about the future.
“I’m looking forward to discussing ways on moving forward and how we can work together,” Fox said. “We are working on good access to women’s healthcare locally.”