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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- Nancy Brinker and the Board of Directors of Susan G. Komen for the Cure released a statement Friday that apparently reverses their decision to defund Planned Parenthood. The statement still has some ambiguity in it, and the full implications of this decision are not yet clear. Nevertheless, three things deserve comment:
1. The statement is clearly designed to placate the publicity assault mounted by Planned Parenthood and its supporters. Whatever the substance of the statement, Komen wants to appear that it has backed down.
2. The statement pledges not to withhold funds based on political investigations. There's a GOP congressman investigating Planned Parenthood now, but the Komen foundation doesn't want its funding determined by partisan politics. They will change their grant standards to make that clear. So Planned Parenthood becomes eligible for grants again on that criterion. But as we shall see, there is another criterion that Planned Parenthood still doesn't meet.
3. The Komen foundation had agreed to pay out existing grants and now says that Planned Parenthood is eligible to apply for future grants. Here's the language: "We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities."
Here is what is not clear. Brinker, founder and CEO of Komen, was saying precisely the same thing the day before the statement was released. She was already arguing that Planned Parenthood would continue to receive existing grants and would be eligible to apply for future grants. She also said that the Komen foundation would prioritize their grants for facilities that actually perform mammograms. Planned Parenthood gives referrals for mammograms, but it doesn't provide mammograms. Komen reserves the right to refuse future grants based on the fact that Planned Parenthood still does not offer mammograms in its facilities. The Washington Post makes the same observation: "The statement left some ambiguity, however, because it did not mention a second reason Komen has given for ending Planned Parenthood's funding: That the group did not provide direct mammogram services, but instead referred patients out to other locations."
So the real issue is whether or not the Komen foundation will approve future grants to Planned Parenthood. There's nothing in this statement that says it will. They still have a grant standard that prioritizes facilities that actually perform mammograms. Are they going to make an exception with Planned Parenthood? This statement doesn't say so one way or the other.
In any case, the moral calculus doesn't change. If the Komen foundation is going to fund Planned Parenthood -- the nation's leading provider of elective abortions -- then pro-life people are not going to be able to donate to Komen's otherwise worthy cause. It is an outrage that Planned Parenthood and its allies hold the Komen foundation hostage. It is even more outrageous that Komen retains a connection to the abortion mills.
Any other group thinking about donating to Planned Parenthood ought to take note. If you ever decide to stop giving them money, Planned Parenthood may try to destroy you and your group's reputation -- just like they have done to Komen. Planned Parenthood has powerful allies in Congress, in the White House, and in the media. Don't think they won't use that influence against anyone who crosses them. As I have written before, abortion is their sacrament, and Planned Parenthood is their temple. They will not tolerate anyone treading upon their holy ground.
The Komen foundation has really botched the communication of its new policies. As a result, Komen is even more tied to Planned Parenthood and the abortion lobby than its ever was before. For an organization that wants to stay out of the culture wars, Komen is worse off now than it was a month ago, when many Americans didn't even know about this controversy. Many pro-lifers also were unaware of Komen's connection to Planned Parenthood. But that is no longer the case. Going forward, Komen will be viewed by Americans as a lackey of Planned Parenthood. Komen looks more like a leftist political group than it ever did. The only way to change this impression is to make a decisive break with the abortion mills of Planned Parenthood.
Denny Burk is associate professor of New Testament at Boyce College, the undergraduate arm of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. This column first appeared at his website, DennyBurk.com.