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Money pours into Planned Parenthood. Was Susan G. Komen misunderstood?

Planned Parenthood cited a $250,000 grant from Mayor Bloomberg among thousands of pledges. The Susan G. Komen Foundation said its donations spiked too. But the battle between the two women's organizations has just started. 

Brian Chilson/AP/File
In this October 2010 file photo, some of an estimated 45,000 people participate in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Little Rock, Ark.

Within 48 hours of news breaking that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation was cutting grants to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America for its breast-cancer screening program, PPFA has more than made up for the $680,000 in funds lost.

Thursday afternoon, Planned Parenthood announced that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was making a $250,000 matching grant. That comes in addition to pledges to Planned Parenthood totaling $400,000 from 6,000 donors in the first day, and a $250,000 grant from the Amy and Lee Fikes’ Foundation of Dallas.

The Komen Foundation, too, reported a spike in donations Thursday – 100 percent in the past two days. No hard numbers were available.

But the real battle – between two powerful women’s organizations – has only started. Planned Parenthood maintains that the funding cut was political, based on longstanding pressure on the Komen Foundation by opponents of abortion. Komen says that’s not true, and that the decision resulted from the adoption of stricter criteria that bar grants to organizations that are under government investigation.

Planned Parenthood is being investigated by a congressional subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R) of Florida, for allegedly using taxpayer money to fund abortions. Though some Planned Parenthood facilities do provide abortions, the organization says federal funds are not involved. Some news reports have suggested a possible link between Komen’s decision and its hiring last April of a new vice president, former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, a vocal opponent of abortion rights. Ms. Handel ran for governor of Georgia in 2010.

In an interview on MSNBC Thursday, Komen founder Nancy Brinker denied the Handel connection.

“Karen did not have anything to do with this,” said Ms. Brinker, former United States ambassador to Hungary and later chief of protocol under President George W. Bush. The Komen Foundation is named for her sister, who died of breast cancer.

Brinker also said that the Komen Foundation is not “defunding” Planned Parenthood. “We have three grants that will go on this year, and they will probably be eligible for the next grant cycle,” she said.

But the bottom line is that Komen has cut funding for breast-cancer screening and other breast-health programs at Planned Parenthood affiliates.

“It’s hard to understand how an organization with whom we share a mission of saving women’s lives could have bowed to this kind of bullying,” Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told the Associated Press.

Social conservatives have long fought to defund Planned Parenthood over its abortion-related activities, both as a provider and advocate. The Komen decision comes amid intense advocacy at the state level by abortion foes seeking to pass restrictions on the procedure, including efforts to change the legal definition of “personhood” to confer rights and protections on fetuses, such that abortion would be effectively banned.

Jan. 22 marked the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that established the nationwide right to abortion as a matter of privacy, though with increasing state ability to limit that right as a pregnancy proceeds.

The Planned Parenthood-Komen schism comes just as the 2012 presidential campaign is heating up. The struggling economy dominates the agenda, but for some voters, particularly social conservatives, abortion is a top issue. Some leading Republicans, such as Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, have suggested a “truce” on social issues while the nation grapples with serious economic and fiscal challenges, but he backed away from that call after conservative groups objected.

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