Thursday, February 2, 2012

Following a controversy

I am always interested in controversies. Anything that is controversial makes news - which sometimes often gets over-hyped by the media and ends up boring us to death because there is too much. What I find most interesting about controversy is how the controversial behavior is handled by the two sides. There is always controversy - we can't escape it. If we do something wrong, do we apologize or do we run away? An apology or explanation is a good way to handle something, running away, avoiding the issue, or worse a bad apology is a bad way to handle it. This applies in every part of life - there is no getting around it.

The latest controversy in the news is that the Komen foundation has announced they will no longer fund Planned Parenthood. Actually what they did is decide not to renew a grant. If you read the news articles that were first made available yesterday:

"Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a leader in fundraising for breast cancer research and famous worldwide for its iconic pink ribbon, said Tuesday that it was halting all partnerships with Planned Parenthood affiliates because of recently adopted criteria that forbid it from funding any organization under government investigation.

In September, Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) launched an inquiry to determine whether Planned Parenthood uses public money to fund abortions. Planned Parenthood receives federal money but cannot use it to provide abortions.

Komen has a long history of providing funding to various Planned Parenthood affiliates for such services as manual breast exams and referrals for mammograms and biopsies to check suspicious lumps for cancer. Although that money is not used for abortions, the Komen Foundation may have yielded to demands from antiabortion groups to sever its ties to Planned Parenthood.

"We had the sense this was coming and that they were under pressure," said Sue Dunlap, chief executive of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles. "I find this really disappointing. I think when women's health is more of a political conversation than a conversation about healthcare and taking care of people, then we've gone too far."

Officials for Planned Parenthood Federation of America said they learned of Komen's new stance on funding late last year and asked the Komen board of directors for a meeting to resolve any issues or questions related to funding. The meeting did not take place, said Cecile Richards, the federation's president.

"We are alarmed and saddened that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation appears to have succumbed to political pressure," Richards said in a statement. "Our greatest desire is for Komen to reconsider this policy and recommit to the partnership on which so many women count."

Over the last five years, Planned Parenthood has provided about 4 million breast exams and referrals for 70,000 mammograms nationwide. Funding from Komen covers about 170,000 of the breast exams and 6,400 mammogram referrals, Richards said. Although mammograms and biopsies are referred out, Planned Parenthood doctors manage their patients' cases.

This sparked a sense of outrage all over - this was the hot topic of the internet yesterday - it was more popular than Justin Beiber, the presidential election, and the Facebook IPO combined. The outrage centered on the potential political slant of the decision.

The Komen foundation itself was decidedly silent on the topic itself which was to its detriment. I call this poor handling. The silence allowed people to polarize and express their fury again and again.

This morning I received a link to an official video of Nancy Brinker explaining their position and why they made the decision. I call it a non-answer:

She does not address the issues of the controversy. She states they are staying true to their cause and the promise to her sister. She talks about changing their grant policies. She does not talk about the statement from the Komen foundation about not funding organizations under investigation. She could be talking about any decision, not this one.

A non profit owes it to the donors to explain their decisions. People won't donate to places which upset them. They donate to places which they feel support their beliefs. It is hard for a donor to believe in an organization which doesn't explain their decision.

And now we have reports that Planned Parenthood received a record $650,000 in donations in 24 hours - which basically replaces the Komen grant money they will no longer receive.

This is a controversy which I believe was poorly handled by Komen. The proof is in the money.

But I am sure the media will beat this to death for the next six months until we are bored.  We need a new scandal fast so this one will not be the controversy which would not go away.

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