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Komen officials say it's not about abortion

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February 02, 2012|By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Nancy Brinker, founder of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, defended the group's decision to end most funding to Planned Parenthood.
Nancy Brinker, founder of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, defended… (William B. Plowman / NBC )

Officials for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation defended its decision to eventually end grants to Planned Parenthood for breast-health activities and suggested that the Komen money might be better spent elsewhere.

In a conference call with members of the media, Komen founder and chief executive Nancy Brinker said the decision to end 16 of 19 grants to Planned Parenthood affiliates was due to a rule change that is intended to improve how grantees are selected. The decision has nothing to do with Planned Parenthood's position as an abortion provider, she said.

"This has been a contentious issue," Brinker said of the media coverage of the rift between the two well-known women's health organizations. "Our position has been lost. . .Our only mission is to design treatments and cures for this disease and to take care of women in need of services."

But, she added: "You have to be sure you are granting to the right people."

Earlier this week, Planned Parenthood reported that 19 of its affiliates would no longer receive grants from the Komen Foundation for breast-health programs because Planned Parenthood is under investigation by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.). Stearns said he is looking into whether Planned Parenthood used federal funding for abortion services, which is not permitted.

Under Komen's new rules for selecting grantees, organizations under investigation will be barred from receiving new funds until the matter is resolved.

"We've always had the right to cancel contracts," Brinker said. The newly adopted guidelines "exclude organizations from applying for funding until their situations are cleared up."

Brinker said three Planned Parenthood affiliates, including a grant to the Orange and San Bernardino counties affiliate,  will continue to be funded because it provides services that cannot be replaced through grants to another organization.

Planned Parenthood affiliates will be free to apply for future grants once the organization is no longer under investigation, she said. But Komen officials also said that the Planned Parenthood's breast-health programs may not be the best use of its funds. While women can receive clinical breast exams at Planned Parenthood clinics, patients are referred to other medical facilities for mammograms, biopsies and cancer treatment. Brinker referred to this model as "pass-through" services.

"We look at the quality of the grants," Brinker said. "This isn't about funding the same thing over and over. It's about how can we get better? We don't like to do pass-through grants any more."

Brinker said the foundation's new rule on barring grants to organizations under investigation does not just affect Planned Parenthood. She did not name other organizations that might also lose funding.

"We have some ongoing reviews of some organizations and institutions that we are looking very closely at," she said. "Last year we had a large state institution we had to interrupt funding until the investigation they were under had cleared."

Komen still funds various medical centers that also provide abortions, noted Liz Thompson, president of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Thompson said applications for Komen grants do not require divulging any association with abortion.

"We're not in the abortion business," Thompson said. "That is not something we ask people about."

Brinker said while the public reaction to this week's events has been unfortunate, there is unanimity among Komen executives and its board of directors that the new funding rules are appropriate.

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