NEW YORK — For leaders of the nation’s pre-eminent breast-cancer charity, it was a firestorm they didn’t see coming — and couldn’t withstand.
Susan G. Komen for the Cure on Friday abandoned plans to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood. The dramatic retreat followed a three-day furor that resounded across the Internet, in Congress and — perhaps most tellingly — among Komen affiliates who openly rebelled, suggesting the leadership had bowed to anti-abortion pressure.
“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,” a Komen statement said.
As first reported by The Associated Press on Tuesday, Komen had adopted criteria excluding Planned Parenthood from future grants for breast-cancer screenings because it was under government investigation, citing a probe launched by a Florida congressman at the urging of anti-abortion groups.
“We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political,” Komen said Friday. “That is what is right and fair.”
As a result, Komen said, “we will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants.”
Komen officials were unavailable for further comment on how they came to change their plans. There was no indication that the organization had come under pressure from its corporate partners. But many of Komen’s own affiliates nationwide had objected to cutting off the grants, which totaled $680,000 in 2011. An Aspen, Colo., affiliate announced Thursday that it would defy the new rules and continue grants to its local Planned Parenthood partner, while all seven of Komen’s California affiliates said they “strongly opposed” the planned cutoff.
In addition, Komen was inundated with negative comments via emails, on Twitter and on its Facebook page. Many of the messages conveyed a determination to halt gifts to Komen — organizer of the popular Race for the Cure events —because of the decision.
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood was reporting an outpouring of donations, large and small, that totaled $3 million between Tuesday evening and Friday afternoon. Planned Parenthood said the funds would be used to expand its breast health services, which already provide nearly 750,000 breast exams each year.
Planned Parenthood’s president, Cecile Richards, said in a telephone news conference that she was astonished by the flow of donations and the often emotional support expressed for her organization on the Internet.
“This was simply a story, when it broke, it just caught fire,” she said. “This kind of political bullying — folks are just saying, ‘Enough.’”
Anti-abortion groups had pressed Komen for years to end its partnership with Planned Parenthood, even to the extent of recalling pink Bibles that were benefiting Komen and boycotting its Race for the Cure events.
Abortion foes applauded earlier this week when the funding cutoff was reported, and were dismayed by Friday’s turnaround.
“The Susan G. Komen Foundation has caved in to the demands of radical abortion apologists,” said Douglas R. Scott, Jr., of Life Decisions International, which had been mulling whether to remove Komen from a “boycott list” of Planned Parenthood partners.
Scott said Komen should have anticipated a backlash once word of its funding cutoff plans became public.