Susan G. Komen Apologizes for Cutting Off Planned Parenthood Funding

                                                            (Image Credit: Karen Bleier / AFP / Getty Images)

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation apologized today for cutting off funding from Planned Parenthood and vowed to revise the policy that led to an intense backlash against the nation's largest breast cancer organization.

"We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women's lives," president and founder Nancy Brinker said in a statement today. "We have been distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood. They were not.

"Our original desire was to fulfill our fiduciary duty to our donors by not funding grant applications made by organizations under investigation," she added. "We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political. That is what is right and fair."

Planned Parenthood's president, Cecile Richards, praised the move  and the "outpouring of support" her organization has received since the news caught fire. She also dubbed it as a watershed moment and a "learning opportunity."

"Bullying and trying to make political women's access to health care is a losing political strategy," Richards said in a conference call with reporters today, adding that she looks forward to resuming a partnership with the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure cut off funding Tuesday for about 19 Planned Parenthood clinics that provide breast cancer screening and other preventative services.

Planned Parenthood affiliates have received about $680,000 per year from the foundation and provided about 170,000 clinical breast exams and 6,400 mammogram referrals through those funds, mainly to low-income and minority women.

The foundation said its decision was spurred by a recent policy change that prohibited it from funding organizations that are under investigation. A congressional committee, led by anti-abortion Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., is looking into Planned Parenthood affiliates to see whether they used taxpayer money to fund abortions.

But critics charged that the move was solely political and based on the pressure that the Komen foundation has been facing from anti-abortion groups over the years. Planned Parenthood was the only grantee among 2,000 other organizations whose funding was cut off under the new policy.

Critics also linked it to the foundation's recent hiring of Karen Handel, a former Georgia Republican gubernatorial candidate who is an outspoken opponent of Planned Parenthood. Brinker denied that Handel was involved in the decision.

A number of Komen foundation board members resigned in the wake of that decision.

Meanwhile, the move spurred a flood of support for Planned Parenthood. The group has received more than $3 million for its breast cancer program since Tuesday. Cyclist Lance Armstrong's charity group, Livestrong - which has never before donated to the group - became the latest high-profile organization to give money, donating $100,000 to the Planned Parenthood's cancer services fund. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he would keep his pledge announced Thursday to give $250,000 and $1 for every dollar Planned Parenthood raises up to $250,000.

"I think health care is at the top of the list [of things] we have to worry about. I don't think politics should enter it," Bloomberg said in an interview with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell today. "I'm glad they reversed it but the bottom line is Planned Parenthood is an organization that was providing a great service in terms of screening for cancer and they do a lot of other good things."

Oil tycoon Lee Fikes and his wife also gave the group $250,000, and it raised more than $650,000 from across the country. Indie rock band The Decemberists today pulled its support from the  Komen foundation, saying it will now give all its funds to Planned Parenthood's Breast Health Emergency Fund.