The Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast-cancer charity on Friday abandoned plans to eliminate grants to Planned Parenthood. The startling decision came after three days of virulent criticism that resounded across the Internet, jeopardizing Komen's iconic image.
"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. Read the full statement on the Komen website
Locally, Komen's Oregon and Southwest Washington affiliate sent an e-mail to supporters on Thursday evening saying it is "opposed to the new national Komen community grant eligibility policy."
Jennifer Williamson resigned from the local Komen board of directors even though the local chapter came out against the national decision.
"I think they lost a lot of supporters this week," she said. "I don't think there’s any place for the abortion debate to be involved in breast cancer screening."
Other Komen donors, including Portland band The Decemberists, are vowing to shift financial support to Planned Parenthood.
The local Komen chapter for Oregon and Southwest Washington declined an interview request from KATU News Friday.
But CEO of Komen Oregon Chris McDonald sent KATU a statement Friday night: "Komen is pleased that the national policy change regarding community grant eligibility has been reversed. We apologize for the distraction and regret the recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women's lives. Komen Oregon's commitment to our mission is and will always be unwavering."
The local chapter does not provide funding for Planned Parenthood because it hasn't applied for grant money. That's something Planned Parenthood's David Greenberg hopes to change.
"What Komen has done this week has both hurt women in the short run and perhaps now helped women by reversing their decision," he said.
Greenberg wants Planned Parenthood to work more closely with the local Komen chapter and some jaded Komen supporters say that's the best path forward.
"I'd rather not condemn them," said Mary Evans. "I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt and give them the chance to reverse their actions or make amends in whatever way they can."
As first reported by The Associated Press on Tuesday, Komen had adopted criteria excluding Planned Parenthood from future grants for breast-cancer screenings because it was under government investigation, citing a probe launched by a Florida congressman at the urging of anti-abortion groups.
Komen said it would change the criteria "to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political."
"We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants," the statement said.
Many of Komen's affiliates across the country had openly rebelled against the decision to cut the funding, which totaled $680,000 in 2011. One affiliate, in Aspen, Colo., had announced Thursday that it would defy the new rules and continue grants to its local Planned Parenthood partner.
In addition, Komen was inundated with negative comments via emails, on Twitter and on its Facebook page. Many of the messages conveyed a determination to halt gifts to Komen - organizer of the popular Race for the Cure events -because of the decision.
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood was reporting an outpouring of support - donations large and small, triggered by the Komen decision, that it said surpassed $900,000.
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."
Through the Komen grants, Planned Parenthood says its health centers provided nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams and more than 6,400 mammogram referrals over the past five years.
Komen, in its statement, said it was immediately starting an outreach to its affiliates and supporters to get the charity back on track.
"We urge everyone who has participated in this conversation across the country over the last few days to help us move past this issue," Komen said. "We do not want our mission marred or affected by politics - anyone's politics."
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)