NEW YORK (AP) — After three days of controversy, a renowned breast cancer charity in the U.S. said Friday it is reversing its decision to cut breast-screening grants to the country’s most well-known reproductive health organization.
“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 Susan G. Komen for the Cure statement said.
The Associated Press first reported Tuesday that 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 anti-abortion groups.
WATCH ANDREA MITCHELL’S COVERAGE OF THE CONTROVERSY:
In Washington, 26 U.S. senators this week signed a letter calling on Komen to reconsider its decision. “It would be tragic if any woman — let alone thousands of women — lost access to these potentially lifesaving screenings because of a politically motivated attack,” the senators wrote.
Komen leaders had denied Planned Parenthood’s assertion that the decision was driven by pressure from anti-abortion groups. According to Planned Parenthood, its health centers performed more than 4 million breast exams over the past five years, including nearly 170,000 as a result of Komen grants. The grants totaled $680,000 last year.
As the controversy erupted, Komen was deluged with negative emails and Facebook postings accusing it of knuckling under to pressure from anti-abortion groups. Many of Komen’s affiliates across the U.S. openly rebelled, and donations to Planned Parenthood poured in. The group said the donations since the original Komen decision surpassed $3 million. It has pledged to use the funds to maintain and expand its breast health services.
Planned Parenthood’s president, Cecile Richards, thanked those donors Friday and welcomed Komen’s change of heart.
“We are enormously grateful that the Komen Foundation has clarified its grantmaking criteria,” Richards said. “What these past few days have demonstrated is the deep resolve all Americans share in the fight against cancer.”
A source with direct knowledge of decision-making at Komen’s headquarters has said the grant-making criteria were adopted with the deliberate intention of targeting Planned Parenthood. The criteria’s impact on Planned Parenthood and its status as the focus of government investigations were highlighted in a memo distributed to Komen affiliates in December.
According to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions, a driving force behind the move was Karen Handel, who was hired by Komen last year as vice president for public policy after losing a campaign for governor in Georgia in which she stressed her anti-abortion views and frequently denounced Planned Parenthood.
Brinker, in an interview with MSNBC, said Handel didn’t have a significant role in the policy change.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.