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Komen reverses decision, will give grants to Planned Parenthood

Komen reverses decision, will give grants to Planned Parenthood

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UPDATED at 12:06 p.m. with local reaction on Komen's reversal.

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast-cancer charity on Friday abandoned plans to eliminate grants to Planned Parenthood. The startling decision came after three days of virulent criticism that resounded across the Internet, jeopardizing Komen's iconic image.

"We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women's lives," a Komen statement said.

As first reported by The Associated Press on Tuesday, Komen had adopted criteria excluding Planned Parenthood from future grants for breast-cancer screenings because it was under government investigation, citing a probe launched by a Florida congressman at the urging of anti-abortion groups.

Komen said it would change the criteria "to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political."

"We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants," the statement said.

Many of Komen's affiliates across the country had openly rebelled against the decision to cut the funding, which totaled $680,000 in 2011. One affiliate, in Aspen, Colo., had announced Thursday that it would defy the new rules and continue grants to its local Planned Parenthood partner.

In addition, Komen was inundated with negative comments via emails, on Twitter and on its Facebook page. Many of the messages conveyed a determination to halt gifts to Komen — organizer of the popular Race for the Cure events — because of the decision.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood was reporting an outpouring of support - donations large and small, triggered by the Komen decision, that it said surpassed $900,000.

Planned Parenthood's president, Cecile Richards, thanked those donors Friday and welcomed Komen's change of heart.

"We are enormously grateful that the Komen Foundation has clarified its grantmaking criteria," Richards said. "What these past few days have demonstrated is the deep resolve all Americans share in the fight against cancer."

Through the Komen grants, Planned Parenthood says its health centers provided nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams and more than 6,400 mammogram referrals over the past five years.

Paula Gianino, president of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, was thrilled to hear the news, even though local Planned Parenthood affiliates have never received grants from Komen.

"The outpouring of support and the anger about the original decision was a crystal-clear statement that people in this country do not want politics getting in the way of life-saving cancer care and screening for women," she said. "The public's reaction the last few days, which was unprecedented, said that they know that Planned Parenthood is a trusted provider of primary cancer screening services."

During the past 48 hours, Gianino said, patients, supporters and even people who have never been served by or contributed to Planned Parenthood have been calling expressing their support.

"They were calling and telling me they were writing checks," she said.

Planned Parenthood of St. Louis provides breast exams to about 7,000 women each year. It was denied a Komen grant to buy breast self-exam shower cards several years ago and, according to Gianino, the Komen organization has discouraged them from applying for grants ever since.

Janet Vigen Levy, spokeswoman for the St. Louis Komen affiliate, said the reversed decision will not change the way they have been doing business locally.

"(Planned Parenthood in St. Louis) has not been a grantee; They have not applied in 10 years," she said. "If anyone would apply for a grant they would all be treated the same way. We have a grant process in place with a group of anonymous grant reviewers who look over applications."

Komen, in its statement, said it was immediately starting an outreach to its affiliates and supporters to get the charity back on track.

"We urge everyone who has participated in this conversation across the country over the last few days to help us move past this issue," Komen said. "We do not want our mission marred or affected by politics — anyone's politics."

Cynthia Billhartz Gregorian of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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