Komen’s Contortions: a Timeline of the Charity’s Shifting Story on Planned Parenthood
Starting last week in a head-snapping series of events, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure charity cut funding to Planned Parenthood, and after a wave of outcry, reinstituted the funding days later. Along the way it gave a string of seemingly contradictory explanations for its decisions. We break down exactly what Komen said, and how it's changed.
Tuesday, Jan. 31
Reports emerge that Komen denied funding to Planned Parenthood...
Komen fails to respond to criticism over its decision for over 36 hours...
The AP reports Tuesday afternoon that Komen has decided to pull funding from Planned Parenthood, cutting off hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants used for breast cancer screening and education for low-income women. Citing a Komen spokeswoman, the AP says the reason for the cut-off is a recently adopted rule that prohibits Komen from funding groups under government investigation. Planned Parenthood was disqualified because it's under probe by Representative Cliff Stearns, R-Fl., about whether public money was improperly spent on abortions.
Planned Parenthood says it is "alarmed and saddened" Komen is giving in to pressure from anti-abortion groups and has been influenced by what Planned Parenthood calls a "politically motivated" Congressional investigation.
Planned Parenthood sends a fundraising email asking its supporters to donate money to make up the lost Komen grants (which totaled $680,000 last year). It is met with a surge in donations.
Social media sites drive a deluge of comments protesting the decision. On Tuesday night it is one of the most discussed topics on Twitter.
Komen is silent about the outcry...
Komen makes no mention of the outpouring of criticism in a statement released to the AP that evening, saying only that it is "regrettable" that changes in priorities and policies affected its longstanding partner Planned Parenthood.
Wednesday, Feb. 1
Komen offers multiple explanations for its decision to defund: tighter grant making requirements, nothing to do with the congressional investigation, everything to do with the investigation...
"To support [a] new granting strategy, Komen has also implemented more stringent eligibility standards to safeguard donor dollars. Consequently, some organizations are no longer eligible to receive Komen grants,"
"We were giving [Planned Parenthood] money, they were sending women out for mammograms. What we would like to have are clinics where we can directly fund mammograms,"
- Komen CEO Brinker tells the Washington Post
"People don't understand that a Congressional investigation doesn't necessarily mean a problem of substance. When people read about it in places like Texarkana, Tex., where I'm from, it sounds really bad,"
- Raffaelli tells the New York Times
Komen issues a statement saying that its actions have been widely mischaracterized and it needs to set the record straight: In the course of strengthening its grant program, the foundation put in place more stringent criteria. Planned Parenthood simply didn't make the cut. The statement makes no mention of the Congressional investigation.
Komen posts a video of Komen CEO Nancy Brinker explaining the "real story" and saying that Komen would never "bow to pressure."
Komen President Elizabeth Thompson tells the Washington Post that the decision to cut off Planned Parenthood funding "doesn't really have anything to do with" the congressional investigation." Brinker says Planned Parenthood lost funding because it doesn't usually provide mammograms to women directly (instead it gives them referrals to other clinics).
While Komen says the decision was not meant to target Planned Parenthood, inside sources offer a different story...
Board member John Raffaelli tells the New York Times that Komen changed to its grant-making process specifically to end its relationship with Planned Parenthood. According to Raffaelli, Komen was worried a congressional investigation of Planned Parenthood would damage Komen's credibility.
Thursday, Feb. 2
"Mollie is one of the most highly respected and ethical people inside the organization, and she felt she couldn't continue under these conditions,"
- former Komen senior communications adviser John Hammarley tells the Atlantic
"Our issue is grant excellence. [Planned Parenthood does] pass-through grants with their screening grants, they send people to other facilities. We want to do more direct service grants."
- Brinker says on MSNBC
"This troubling decision threatens to reduce access to necessary, life-saving services. We urge Komen to reconsider its decision,"
- a letter from 22 senators to CEO Brinker
Brinker holds a news conference and continues to insist that the changes to grant-making procedures were not meant to specifically target Planned Parenthood, and had nothing to do with politics or abortion. What she leaves unmentioned is that Planned Parenthood was the only organization affected by the policy change.
A report in the Atlantic says that Mollie Williams, Komen's top public-health official, resigned immediately after she learned of the decision to defund Planned Parenthood in December.
The report in the Atlantic further states that senior vice president Karen Handel was behind the decision to cut funding, according to three inside sources. Handel is well known for her anti-abortion views and has said that she that she doesn't support the mission of Planned Parenthood. Handel was hired last year April after she lost her primary campaign for governor in Georgia to a more aggressively pro-life candidate. The three sources also told the Atlantic that the charity had been wanting to break with Planned Parenthood for quite some time, and the congressional investigation simply provided a way to do it. Handel has since responded that she had a role in the decision, but to "suggest that I had the sole authority is just absurd."
In an interview on MSNBC, Brinker says that the decision was not political, and had nothing to do with Karen Handel. Brinker again says the main reason for the decision was not the congressional investigation, but rather Komen's attempt to streamline grants by "putting metrics, outcomes, and measures to them."
22 senators sign a letter urging Komen to reverse its decision and reinstate the grants to Planned Parenthood.
Kathy Plesser, a member of Komen's affiliate medical advisory board in New York City, threatens to resign unless Komen reverses its decision.
Friday, Feb. 3
Komen retreats, and switches back to pinning the decision on the 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."
In an apparent reversal, Komen issues a statement saying that it will now amend its grant criteria to only disqualify investigations that are "criminal and conclusive in nature and not political." Even though a day earlier Brinker told MSNBC that the investigation wasn't "the only issue," the statement makes no mention of any other reason (such as streamlining grants or providing mammograms).
The Atlantic releases internal Komen memos including a Q&A for Komen employees explaining the new grant making criteria, as well as instructions and talking points for how employees should answer questions about it. The memos emphasize the investigation as the primary reason for the funding cut, and make no mention of mammograms.
The AP reports that according to an anonymous source with "direct knowledge of the decision making process," Karen Handel, the pro-life former Republican candidate, was a driving force behind the decision to defund Planned Parenthood.
Monday, Feb. 5
Handel again linked to Planned Parenthood decision...
The Huffington Post reports that Karen Handel was the main force behind the decision to cut funding, according to a Komen insider. She also crafted the strategy of drafting new guidelines to disqualify Planned Parenthood, according to emails sent to the Huffington Post under the condition they not be published. The AP and Time add details on Handel's involvement.
Tuesday, Feb. 7
"The decision to update our granting model was made before I joined Komen, and the controversy related to Planned Parenthood has long been a concern to the organization. Neither the decision nor the changes themselves were based on anyone's political beliefs or ideology,"
- Karen Handel says in a letter to Nancy Brinker
Handel, Komen's vice president of public policy, resigns. She is the fourth Komen executive to resign or threaten to resign since the Planned Parenthood decision was announced.
Wednesday, Feb. 8
Brinker says mistakes were made...
"If I have learned nothing else from our experience of the past week, it is that we in women's health organizations must be absolutely true to our core missions, and avoid even the appearance of bias or judgment in our decisions."
- Nancy Brinker says in a letter to Sally Quinn
In her first public comments since the reversal decision, Brinker admits she "made some mistakes," and apologizes for how her organization "mishandled the situation." Her note is addressed to Washington Post columnist Sally Quinn, who wrote an open letter to Brinker the day before saying that she, along with many others, felt betrayed.