Leaders of the breast-cancer charity Susan G. Komen for the Cure tried in vain Thursday to contain the controversy stemming from its decision to end its grants to Planned Parenthood. But it's becoming clearer that Planned Parenthood has the upper hand in the battle.
While Komen officials argued that it wasn't pressure from anti-abortion groups that led them to end their years-long relationship with Planned Parenthood, outraged supporters of the reproductive health organization were rushing to make up the lost funds.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for one, pledged up to $250,000 of his personal fortune to the organization, putting it well on its way to making up the $680,000 it had been getting from Komen. That's in addition to more than $400,000 Planned Parenthood says it racked up in the first day after the funding cutoff was made public.
And more than two dozen U.S. senators, led by Democrats Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Patty Murray of Washington state, wrote a letter to Komen CEO Nancy Brinker on Thursday, urging her to reconsider the group's decision.
During a conference call with reporters Thursday afternoon, Brinker said that wasn't going to happen. But she also said three Planned Parenthood affiliates — in Colorado, California and Texas — would continue to receive Komen grants because "they are providing the only services that exist for low-income women in these areas."
Brinker also said her group's explanation for the funding cutoff has not been properly explained in the media. (Komen officials did not return calls or emails as the story was breaking Wednesday, finally releasing a taped video response late Wednesday night.)
"We know this is an emotional issue," she said. "We don't base our funding decisions on emotion or politics, or whether one side or another will be pleased."
A Komen spokeswoman initially said the cutoff happened because Planned Parenthood was under investigation. But Brinker said that was only part of the reason.
Komen, she said, is phasing out "pass-through" grants like those made to Planned Parenthood, which only provides basic breast cancer screening, not mammograms or treatment.
And she said there was "an amazing consensus of opinion" among her board members about the changes to the funding criteria.
But Brinker and Komen President Liz Thompson didn't directly deny reports that another top Komen official, Mollie Williams, resigned in protest over the decision.
Meanwhile, California's seven Komen affiliates issued a statement officially opposing the decision and stating that "we are working with our national organization to clear the way for Komen affiliates to continue to make local grant decisions based on their community needs."