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People Are Really Mad at the Komen Foundation [Updated]

Pink Breast Cancer Awareness Ribbon
Pink Breast Cancer Awareness Ribbon Photo: Anthia Cumming

The Susan G. Komen foundation’s decision to sever its ties with Planned Parenthood, announced earlier this week, hasn’t gone over so well. For many women, they’ve suddenly been asked to pick between supporting two causes they care deeply about (breast cancer awareness and reproductive rights) and foundations they thought were closely aligned. Even some women who don’t fit easily into lefty-feminist categories are upset, as the Columbus Dispatch reports. “For the record, I don’t believe in abortion either,” a woman wrote on Komen’s Facebook page. “But for us religious people, shouldn’t we be praying to make the right or better choice? Not taking away from those in need?”

The decision, which is seen as politically motivated, earned praise by pro-life groups, and from Republican politicians like Louisiana’s David Vitter, who lobbied the fund-raising behemoth hard last year to cuts its ties with Planned Parenthood. But within Komen itself, even, there’s a division. The president of the Connecticut chapter of the foundation has spoken out very publicly against the decision, for instance. But once the current grant her chapter gave its neighboring Planned Parenthood runs out in June, she’s at the mercy of the national organization’s policy, and is left hoping that the congressional investigation into PP will have concluded by then, perhaps prompting Komen to re-up its support.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood announced the creation of a new, emergency breast-cancer awareness fund to fill the gap left by the Komen money. And people have responded: By yesterday afternoon, they’d received $400,000 in new donations, more than halfway to the $700,000 Komen provided.

Update: The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg reports that what Komen is publicly framing as the reason for severing its ties with Planned Parenthood — a rule stipulating that the organization can’t fund a group under investigation by the government — was, in fact, crafted specifically with Planned Parenthood in mind, and was heavily lobbied for by Karen Handel, the organization’s new, very publicly conservative senior vice-president for public policy.  (More detail on that congressional investigation, and its origins, here.) There had long been some internal debate over whether Komen’s affiliation with the group was appropriate, but it wasn’t until Handel’s hiring that the issue was pushed to the forefront. Today, she retweeted, and then deleted, a comment that read “Just like a pro-abortion group to turn a cancer orgs decision into a political bomb to throw. Cry me a freaking river.” (Talk about throwing political bombs!)

It’s not just the Connecticut affiliate that’s upset with Komen’s decision: According to Goldberg’s reporting, Mollie Williams, formerly Komen’s top public health official, resigned directly after the internal decision to cut Planned Parenthood’s funding. As Goldberg points out, the rule is a Pandora’s Box: practically any old legislator who doesn’t like any old organization — even, say, a more conservative one than Planned Parenthood — could open an investigation, forcing Komen’s hand.

People Are Really Mad at the Komen Foundation [Updated]