Komen Still Reeling From Planned Parenthood Controversy

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 28, 2012   |   1:02PM   |   Washington, DC

The Komen for the Cure breast cancer charity is canceling its annual lobbying day on Capitol Hill in what is a sign the national organization is still reeling from the controversy surrounding its funding decisions related to Planned Parenthood.

According to a Daily Beast report, “The move is significant because it indicates that Komen’s problems could impact an array of women’s health initiatives that reach well beyond the ones the charity sponsors itself. At the annual lobbying day, activists push for government programs, not for Komen programs. These government programs focus on cancer research and early detection and treatment for underserved women.”

Leslie Aun, a spokeswoman for Komen, did not elaborate on the reasons for the cancellation, the web site reported. She also did not talk about whether Komen will provide any further funding to Planned Parenthood after it decided to cut off funds because it does not provide mammograms. Later Komen appeared to say Planned Parenthood is still eligible, which confused pro-life advocates.

As the Daily Beast reports:

“We know folks have been upset with us,” says Aun. “We get that, and we are sorry. We hope that people don’t turn their backs on women. If you don’t give to Komen, that’s someone who’s not going to get a mammogram.” She adds, “We fill so many gaps for women—we gave 700,000 free screenings to uninsured women last year, many of them impoverished. I can’t tell you how many cancers we have detected. Women are alive today because of Komen.”

People familiar with the situation say the charity’s current challenges can’t all be blamed on the Planned Parenthood flap. They say the group was already facing a number of financial and management hurdles in the months before the controversy. They describe a powerhouse charity trying to deal with the economic downturn and with general fatigue among some donors regarding pink-ribbon campaigns and races.

According to one person familiar with the situation, some of the national affiliates weren’t meeting their goals for participants and fundraising at local races and events last year. Komen was discussing plans to cut its budget for the next fiscal year, this person says, with proposed staff layoffs along with a potential reorganization of the affiliates, including combining some of them or trimming the number of races.

People familiar with the situation also say there was some anxiety among staff about restricted grants Komen had accepted—grants that call for the funds to be given to specific projects, some overseas. It’s not unusual for charities to accept restricted grants, but when budget cuts need to be made, the cuts can’t be made to these grants, since the money has been promised to particular projects.

Komen’s Aun says: “It’s fair to say it’s a challenging economy. We want to make sure dollars have the most impact, and we have to work harder to get some of those dollars. Everyone is facing these kinds of challenges.” She adds: “Eighty-three cents out of every dollar goes to the mission. And we have a lot of loyal supporters. People are so dedicated to this cause—you don’t do it randomly. You do it because you care.” As for layoffs, she says, she is unaware of any such plans.

On the issue of whether people are growing weary of pink campaigns and races, she says: “I don’t think evidence bears that out. And when a woman is dying of breast cancer, there’s not enough pink. We’d love for there to be less pink.”

The report indicates a new study shows the controversy has been significantly damaging to Komen’s reputation.

An annual study of “brand health” by Harris Interactive released Tuesday showed that Komen fell 54 spots this year to 56th place out of the 79 nonprofits studied. The study was conducted online from Jan. 31 through Feb. 20, 2012, and analyzed the responses of more than 37,500 consumers on key measures of brand health.

Says Aun: “The way we’re going to get past this is to just live our mission every day. We’ve apologized; we’ve expressed regret. In the end we hope people remember that this is about the women.”

For millions of pro-life advocates it’s about women and children and Komen will not earn their support back without a firm commitment to not funding the nation’s biggest abortion business — whose abortions have resulted in the deaths of more than 300,000 women from breast cancer they contracted following abortions.

Related web sites:  Tell Komen: Don’t Cave on Cutting Planned Parenthood Funding