The Susan G. Komen Foundation may have apologized and retracted its decision to pull funding for Planned Parenthood, but it appears the ordeal — now being called the worst public relations disaster in the organization’s history — is likely far from over. In an interview with Lawrence O’Donnell, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards discussed doubts now cast on Komen's long-term survivability. Richards emphasized the "very good" relationship with the Komen foundation since the reversal of their decision.
"I think what this is all about is people saying, 'We can’t let bullies bully the Komen Foundation and force them to quit working with Planned Parenthood.' Just like we can't let bullies who are now trying to fight against the president's coverage of birth control," Richards said. "I think this is a time when women and men are standing up and saying, 'this is a war on women's healthcare and it's got to end.'"
On Monday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney says he's not in favor of giving grants to Planned Parenthood because they also provides abortion services.
Komen insiders told Huffington Post on Sunday that Karen Handel, Komen's staunchly anti-abortion vice president for public policy, was the main force behind the decision to defund Planned Parenthood. According to the website, Handel developed the new grant guidelines with the sole purpose of defunding Planned Parenthood, telling staffers, "If we just say it’s about investigations, we can defund Planned Parenthood and no one can blame us for being political."
After widespread public outrage and the urging of more than 20 members of Congress, Komen administrators reversed the decision and publicly apologized. Petitions are now circling for Handel’s resignation.
“If Handel resigned that would do a lot to mend the fences,” The Daily Beast’s Michelle Goldberg said on The Last Word. “Komen does important work. As long as this is a single aberration, I don’t think it’s the kind of thing they can’t recover from as long as they make it clear that this was a mistake and they’re serious about recommitting to their mission of supporting women’s health.”
The silver lining of the whole mess has been an outpouring of donations to Planned Parenthood. When Komen announced they were cutting funds, Planned Parenthood immediately started the Breast Health Fund to make up the difference — no small feat, considering Komen gave the group around $680,000 last year and $580,000 the year prior. Besides a huge wave of support on social media, Planned Parenthood received $400,000 in just 24 hours, from approximately 6,000 donors. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg pledged to donate $250,000 and Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation offered up a $100,000 grant.
Komen’s future funding of Planned Parenthood is still up in the air, but today, the financial future of the women's health care provider seems at least secure.
In a Very Last Word video after the show, Richards thanked viewers and supporters, adding "we shouldn't put politics ahead of women’s health."
[UPDATE: Top Komen official Karen Handel quit her job today after the funding controversy.
— By Quinn Wonderling