By Sam Baker - 02/03/12 10:25 PM EST
Susan G. Komen for the Cure on Friday reversed its decision to cut off grant money to Planned Parenthood, following an intense backlash from women’s groups and the political left.
The policy change does not guarantee that Planned Parenthood will receive funding from Komen but will allow the organization to apply again for grants next year.
Planned Parenthood said it was “enormously grateful” for the reversal and eager to resume its work with Komen, the country’s leading breast-cancer charity.
“I feel very positive [and] relieved, and I’m glad that we can all focus on women’s health again,” said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
But the charity had been under pressure from conservative activists to cut off those funds because Planned Parenthood also provides abortions.
Komen had said it was forced to cut off Planned Parenthood because of a new policy barring the charity from working with groups that are under investigation. House Republicans are probing Planned Parenthood’s accounting to determine whether the group's federal funding is kept separate from abortion services, as required under the law.
The Komen foundation said Friday it would amend its grant policy to only apply to investigations that are “criminal and conclusive in nature and not political,” thus excluding the GOP probe of Planned Parenthood.
“The events of this week have been deeply unsettling for our supporters, partners and friends and all of us at Susan G. Komen,” the group said in a statement. “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 change isn’t responsive to the second explanation Komen offered for its decision — that it wouldn’t fund Planned Parenthood because the group provides referrals for some services instead of performing them directly.
Richards, though, said she wasn’t concerned, and was confident that Komen grants would keep flowing.
“I think it’s a really good sign that they’re focused on the mission, and I take them at their word that this is behind us,” Richards told reporters.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the decision "a victory for women's health" and said Democrats would continue to back Komen. But she suggested the public, and women in particular, might not forgive and forget.
"We certainly will be able to support them as we have in the past," Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. But the extent of the public backlash, she added, is "a question of what other people in the country think about it."
Planned Parenthood says its clinics have provided about 4 million breast-cancer screenings over the past five years and estimated that roughly 170,000 of them were supported by Komen grants.
Planned Parenthood was flooded with donations after news of Komen’s decision broke earlier this week, including a $250,000 pledge from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), the chairman of the House subpanel that is investigating Planned Parenthood, said the flood of support proves the group doesn't need funding from Komen or the government.
"I believe that Planned Parenthood could be, and should be, totally self sufficient, as with so many other non-profit organizations, and spare America’s hard-pressed taxpayers the $487 million Planned Parenthood received in public funding," Stearns said in a statement.
Twenty-six Senate Democrats signed a letter Thursday slamming Komen for its funding decision, saying the group had put women’s health at risk to serve a political agenda. Those Democrats welcomed Komen’s reversal.
“With these changes to their policy, Susan G. Komen for the Cure is depoliticizing its grant-making process and refocusing itself back on its core mission: saving women's lives,” Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) said in a statement.
Sen. Patty MurrayPatty MurraySenate Dems: Add Flint aid to spending deal Dems call for better birth control access for female troops US wins aerospace subsidies trade case over the EU MORE (D-Wash.) also welcomed the end of Komen’s “misguided and deeply damaging decision,” but said similar battles will erupt again.
“Our fight for women’s health does not end here,” Murray said in a statement. “There are still many who will continue to put partisan politics ahead of women’s health, and we need to make sure that the grassroots support and energy that successfully came together to right this wrong stands ready to be there for women the next time we’re needed.”
— Mike Lillis contributed to this report.
— Posted at 11:30 a.m. and last updated at 5:25 p.m.