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Supporters rally around Planned Parenthood amid funding uproar

By the CNN Wire Staff
February 3, 2012 -- Updated 1547 GMT (2347 HKT)
"Politics have no place in health care," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a written statement.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Officials leave Komen foundation
  • Bloomberg gift comes after Komen Foundation yanked its funding
  • Planned Parenthood reports raising $400,000 within 24 hours
  • Komen Foundation says "quality of the grants" was a factor

New York (CNN) -- The fallout from the Susan G. Komen foundation's decision not to renew funding for some Planned Parenthood projects has led to threatened resignations, angry press statements and a letter from Senate Democrats. Now the mayor of New York has gotten involved.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that he is giving a $250,000 matching gift to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America to help make up for the loss of funding announced Tuesday by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, his office said Thursday.

"Politics have no place in health care," the mayor said in a statement. "Breast cancer screening saves lives, and hundreds of thousands of women rely on Planned Parenthood for access to care. We should be helping women access that care, not placing barriers in their way."

He was referring to Planned Parenthood's announcement Tuesday that the Komen Foundation had "succumbed to political pressure" by cutting its funding for breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood amid increased scrutiny by Congress over how Planned Parenthood provides abortion services.

Bloomberg's gift comes on top of the $400,000 that Planned Parenthood reported raising online from 6,000 donors the first 24 hours after the announcement.

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Planned Parenthood's loss attracted moral support when CREDO, which describes itself as the largest corporate donor to Planned Parenthood, announced Thursday that 250,000 of its members had signed a petition urging the Komen Foundation to reverse its decision.

"The move is clearly connected to attempts by Republicans in Congress to defund Planned Parenthood," the organization said in a statement. "In responding to questions about its decision, the foundation cited as its rationale a sham 'investigation' into Planned Parenthood launched by Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns as one of the most militant anti-choice members of Congress."

In September, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, on which the Florida congressman sits, began an investigation into Planned Parenthood over the organization's "compliance with federal restrictions on funding abortions."

In Washington, at least 22 Senate Democrats signed a letter calling on Komen to reconsider its decision.

"This troubling decision threatens to reduce access to necessary, life-saving services," it said. "It would be tragic if any woman -- let alone thousands of women -- lost access to these potentially life-saving screenings because of a politically motivated attack."

"People respond powerfully when they see politics interfering with women's health," said Andrea Hagelgans, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood, on Wednesday. "That's why we've seen a tremendous outpouring of support."

But the American Life League said in a statement that the Komen Foundation's decision was justified.

"PPFA is currently the focus of a congressional investigation, and multiple affiliates are under state investigations," it said. "Planned Parenthood operatives are lashing out at Komen across the Internet and throughout the media, in what appears to be a coordinated effort to paint Komen's policy as cowardly and politically motivated."

The Komen Foundation denied Thursday that its decision stemmed from politics.

"We've always had the right to cancel contracts for organizations that came under investigation for potential wrongdoing," said Nancy Brinker, CEO and founder of the group. In all, grants were not renewed to 16 of 19 Planned Parenthood clinics, she said. "We don't base our funding decisions on emotions or politics or whether one side or another will be pleased."

Brinker was a political appointee of the George W. Bush administration, in which she served as U.S. ambassador to Hungary and as chief of protocol. Susan G. Komen was Brinker's sister.

Komen Foundation President Liz Thompson said the funds will be redirected "to other programs in our communities that can provide these services more directly."

She said there was "amazing consensus" among foundation board members about the decision, which was made "over the better part of two years."

But that consensus did not include Dr. Kathy Plesser, a member of the foundation's medical advisory board in New York, who said she will resign if the decision is not overturned.

"I cannot as a physician and advocate for women's health continue to be a part of the organization if it continues in this direction," Plesser said. "A big part of what Komen does is reach underserved communities of women. With this decision, they're not living up to this mission."

Mollie Williams, the group's managing director of community health programs, left Komen this month.

"It was an honor to oversee and expand their public health efforts during my six years there," Williams said. "At the same time, I respect the work of Planned Parenthood, including their lifesaving efforts to detect cancer in its earliest stages. The divide between these two very important organizations saddens me."

It wasn't immediately clear whether she had resigned. Thompson said it's policy not to release information about employees other than start and end dates.

Deb Anthony, executive director of Komen's Los Angeles County chapter, did resign, the foundation said Thursday. But Komen denied that Anthony's resignation was about the decision.

"The Komen LA County Executive Director Deborah Anthony did submit her resignation in December 2011, effective April 1, 2012. Her stated reasons did not include the recent grant making criteria changes by Komen's global organization that impact Planned Parenthood," said a statement from Elizabeth Berger, president of the Los Angeles County chapter. "We are deeply concerned by implications that there is any correlation."

Thompson said Stearns' investigation "has little to do" with the grant decision.

Brinker said the "quality of the grants" was a factor.

"We like to have direct care being given," she said. "We have decided not to fund, wherever possible, pass-through grants. In other words, we were giving them money; they were sending women for mammograms. They do not own mammography equipment. They do not do these grants within their clinics. They just send them out for screening and treatment and diagnosis. What we like to have are clinics that we can directly fund."

Asked how many other grantees provide abortion services, she said, "That's not something that we ask people about."

Brinker said donations to Komen were up 100% over the past two days.

Planned Parenthood said that funding from the Komen Foundation had largely paid for breast exams at local affiliates. In the past five years, grants from the group have supported 170,000 screenings, about 4% of the total exams performed at Planned Parenthood health centers nationwide, according to the group.

In a statement Thursday, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Cecile Richards, expressed gratitude for Bloomberg's gift.

"This contribution will help ensure that politics don't interfere with women having access to health care," she said. "People all across the country have stepped forward in the last 48 hours to offer help and support, and the mayor's donation will help ensure that no woman is denied breast cancer services because of right-wing political pressure campaigns."

Bloomberg, an independent who was first elected mayor as a Republican, is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, a multinational financial media company.

CNN's Ted Barrett and Chris Boyette contributed to this report.

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