Three days ago, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland – which provides reproductive health care services across Iowa – had a goal of simply preserving its breast cancer screenings without the funding it has long received from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation.
“Today, our goal is to expand services,” Planned Parenthood of the Heartland President and CEO Jill June said Friday, hours after learning that the breast cancer advocacy group had reversed its earlier decision to cut off funding to some Planned Parenthood projects.
“We are very relieved and surprised and appreciative that things are going to be put right again,” June told The Gazette.
The Komen charity, earlier this year, decided Planned Parenthood no longer would be eligible to receive funding for cancer screenings because it’s being investigated by Republican members of Congress for allegedly using federal dollars to provide abortions.
June said she was amazed by the firestorm that erupted after that decision became public, and her organization has been particularly taken by the overwhelming show of support that came through donations and the spread of awareness on social media.
“I have never seen such a spontaneous combustion of concern and support,” she said.
June said the Heartland branch of Planned Parenthood, which has 34 clinics in Iowa, Nebraska, Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma, first learned that it no longer would be eligible for the Komen group’s cancer screening grants on Jan. 3.
“We thought, ‘How could that be true?’” June said.
She said her organization knew their supporters wouldn’t be happy.
“We wondered how Komen was going to explain this one when the public came aware,” she said. “But we never imagined it would be a story like this. People were furious.”
In the 2011 budget year, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland provided more than 23,000 breast exams, including more than 1,700 at the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids clinics combined. Breast exams accounted for more than 7 percent of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland’s services last year, while abortions accounted for about 2 percent, according to the group’s annual report.
June said she doesn’t know if the Heartland region would have had to cut services at its clinics without the Koman funding, but she’s now hopeful they won’t have to find out. She said her organization is looking at ways to expand its screening services, in fact.
“I think this big conversation that took place over the last few days will allow us to do that,” June said.
Komen officials said the original decision to cut Planned Parenthood off from some of its funding sources wasn’t political, and they stressed Friday that its reversal wasn’t about politics either.
“Our only goal for our granting process is to support women and families in the fight against breast cancer,” Nancy G. Brinker, founder and CEO of the foundation, said in a statement. “Amending our criteria will ensure that politics has no place in our grants.”
June said she thinks that is what this week’s public outrage, in part, was about.
“The public stood up for the protection of women’s health to be free from political involvement and destruction,” she said. “There is enough quarreling in politics. Can’t we at least allow people to have breast cancer screenings without being drug into the muck?”
“I think women put their foot down and said, ‘Enough.’”
Still, not everyone is happy about Komen’s backtracking. Dubuque County Right to Life executives supported the Komen foundation’s earlier decision and were disappointed by Friday’s announcement. Executive Director Steve Brody said he thinks the Komen reversal was unnecessary.”I want to know, first of all, does Susan G. Komen need to have a relationship with Planned Parenthood?” he said. “When you see that Planned Parenthood can raise 3 million dollars in two days, it proves they don’t need Susan G. Komen’s 600-thousand dollars.”