Note: Multiple updates on this post. Scroll down to see them all.
The Susan G. Komen Foundation released a statement moments ago that many are greeting as a reversal of their decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood. On Twitter, the Breaking News feed called it a “pledge to continue funding Planned Parenthood,” while Glenn Greenwald called it “an amazing, Internet-driven victory.”
But it’s not.
The new statement does not pledge Komen to reverse its funding decision, and it does not promise Planned Parenthood any new funding. Let’s look at the relevant passage (emphasis mine):
“We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.”
Komen had never intended to renege on its existing grant commitments to Planned Parenthood, as PP themselves noted in their press release announcing the break between the two organizations (again, emphasis mine):
“In the last few weeks, the Komen Foundation has begun notifying local Planned Parenthood programs that their breast cancer initiatives will not be eligible for new grants (beyond existing agreements or plans).“
Komen’s statement that Planned Parenthood will be “eligible” for new grants is a new development, but it commits Komen to nothing. There’s no reversal of the funding cutoff here, and no promise to reinstate Planned Parenthood funding.
This isn’t a victory. Not yet.
Update | I want to be really clear about what’s going on here. Obviously, Komen has taken a huge amount of heat in the last few days, far more than they’d anticipated, and they’re scrambling to contain the damage. They’re in disarray, and trying to keep this from becoming an even bigger problem for them than it already is. This statement is a reflection of that, and in that sense it’s a good sign. But what they’re hoping this will do is take the spotlight off, and if it has that effect, they’ll have a lot of room to maneuver later. So folks who want to see Planned Parenthood refunded need to be extremely skeptical, and extremely loud in voicing their skepticism, in the near future. Keep the pressure on, keep pushing for concrete concessions. That’s the next step.
Second Update | Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards has released a response to the Komen announcement. An excerpt:
“In recent weeks, the treasured relationship between the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation and Planned Parenthood has been challenged, and we are now heartened that we can continue to work in partnership toward our shared commitment to breast health for the most underserved women. We are enormously grateful that the Komen Foundation has clarified its grantmaking criteria, and we look forward to continuing our partnership with Komen partners, leaders and volunteers.”
Richards is claiming victory, in other words, without suggesting that PP has been given any specific assurances on funding. All the more reason to keep the heat on.
I’ll be sticking with this story as it develops. Feel free to follow me on Twitter for all the latest.
Third Update | A little more explication. First, on the eligibility question: yes, Komen has restored Planned Parenthood’s “eligibility” to apply for grants, but all that means is that PP can submit a request for funding. Without knowing what criteria Komen will use for evaluating those grant requests, and whether they’re actually committed to restoring the PP revenue stream, it’s impossible to say what significance this has. Again, yes, it’s a victory, but so far it’s a victory of spin and messaging, not of actual dollars and cents.
Second, there’s the question of whether the new Komen position indicates that PP is likely to be reinstated as a Komen grantee. I don’t have any particular inside info, but from where I sit, yes, it’s likely, particularly given the media (mis)reading of the statement as well as PP’s (very savvy) response. It seems clear that cutting off PP down the line would be a PR disaster for Komen, and my guess is they’d rather put this behind them. But likelihood isn’t certitude, and things can change. We just don’t know what Komen’s plans are. All we have is what they’ve said. And what they’ve said so far is carefully crafted to leave the option of defunding PP very much alive.
Fourth Update | The president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute calls Komen’s statement “nothing new. We have known and have reported that they are continuing five grants through 2012. This is a reference to that. The second clause about eligibility is certainly true. Any group can apply for anything. It does not mean they are going to get anything.”
Fifth Update | It’s worth remembering that according to one Komen staffer, the group’s new “grant-making criteria were adopted with the deliberate intention of targeting Planned Parenthood.”
Sixth Update | Greg Sargent of the Washington Post got a Komen board member on the phone, and he said that “it would be highly unfair to ask us to commit to any organization that doesn’t go through a grant process that shows that the money we raise is used to carry out our mission. … Tell me you can help carry out our mission and we will sit down at the table.”
“It would be highly unfair to ask us to commit to any organization.” That’s pretty cold, particularly in contrast with Cecile Richards’ “we look forward to continuing our partnership.”
Seventh Update (Saturday morning) | Several commenters have suggested that it would be inappropriate for Komen to promise to restore funding to Planned Parenthood, given the nature of their funding process. A few things about that.
First, whether Komen should have made such a pledge or not is a separate question from whether they did, and many in the media are still incorrectly reporting that such a pledge was made. Right now, for instance, the front page of the New York Times website declares falsely that “the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation apologized for its decision to cut grants to Planned Parenthood for cancer screening and said it would restore the funding.”
Second, there’s plenty Komen could do short of making a formal commitment to circumvent the application process to indicate that their intention is to work to restore the funding. They could say “we look forward to supporting Planned Parenthood’s work in the future.” They could say “our relationship with Planned Parenthood remains important to us.” They could say number of things, none of which they’ve said so far. In fact, and I think this is worth underscoring, their initial statement yesterday included nothing positive about Planned Parenthood at all. Not a word. As far as I’m aware, no subsequent official statement has either.