Planned Parenthood Cut-Off Tests Komen’s Public Image

In the lead-up to the 2012 election, it seems that no nonprofit organization is exempt from dealing with the pressure of politics. This is particularly true for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which halted its financing of breast cancer screening and education programs run by Planned Parenthood affiliates, an organization very much in the middle of the abortion debate.

The decision has caused an intense, largely critical reaction of the Komen charity for allegedly succumbing to anti-choice groups' demands to terminate the partnership. 

The move will halt financing to 19 of Planned Parenthood’s 83 affiliates, which received nearly $700,000 from the Komen foundation last year and have been receiving similar grants since at least 2005, reports The New York Times. 

According to the Associated Press, Komen says the key reason for discontinuation is that Planned Parenthood is under investigation in Congress—a probe launched by a conservative Republican who was urged to act by anti-abortion groups.

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, told AP on Jan. 31 that the decision “came so abruptly in the face of a long, good, working relationship with Komen” and that the change in financing criteria “was written specifically to address the political pressure that they’ve been under.”

Richards said all of Planned Parenthood’s affiliates provided some 770,000 women with breast examinations and paid for mammograms and ultrasounds for those who needed and could not afford further diagnostic services. “Until very recently, the Komen foundation had been praising our breast health programs as essential,” Richards said.

In the 2010 rankings of nonprofit organizations, Komen for the Cure ranked as the No. 1 most valuable nonprofit brand; the charity people are most likely to donate to; and ranked second among the most trusted nonprofit organizations in America. The organization shares the mission of saving women's lives from breast cancer with Planned Parenthood, and to act in a way that directly impacts the work being done toward that goal will likely result in a loss of trust among the public—and it will take a complex and tricky communications strategy to regain it.

Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg