March 24, 2012 / 5:05 PM / 7 years ago

Breast cancer fundraising lags after abortion dispute

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. breast cancer charity Susan G. Komen for the Cure is feeling a pinch on donations following a controversy over its funding for Planned Parenthood, a leading provider of birth-control and abortion services.

A few of the group’s flagship “Race for the Cure” fundraising events have failed to meet targets, a Komen spokeswoman said on Friday. Separately, at least five of the group’s leaders have stepped down in recent weeks.

Komen, the world’s biggest breast cancer charity, provoked uproar over its decision to cut - and later restore - funding for Planned Parenthood, a leading provider of birth control, abortion and other women’s health services. Komen supports Planned Parenthood’s efforts to provide access to breast-cancer screening.

The initial move to cut Planned Parenthood’s funding became public in late January, and was viewed by some Komen supporters as a capitulation to political pressure from anti-abortion groups. Within a few days, the charity reversed course.

Komen said it had had problems meeting targets in about half of the five fundraising events it has staged since the blowup.

One in Lafayette, Louisiana, raised less than $400,000, below its $500,000 goal, and another, to be held in Fort Worth, Texas, is also struggling.

Komen spokeswoman Leslie Aun said the lower numbers appeared to stem from the controversy over Planned Parenthood.

“We’re seeing challenges for races in some of our markets,” Aun said. “People are concerned and they’ve decided not to help Komen. That’s unfortunate because it affects women whose lives we’re trying to help save.”


Komen has said that in 2011 it screened 700,000 uninsured women for breast cancer, and it spends 83 cents of every donation dollar on research or community services.

Five Komen executives or directors have recently announced they are leaving the organization, although a group insider cited personal reasons for most of the resignations.

Nancy Macgregor, who has been with Komen since 1990, is leaving her role as vice president of global networks in June. Joanna Newcomb, director of affiliate strategy and planning, and Katrina McGhee, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, are also stepping down.

Aun said the chairman of Komen’s board, LaSalle Leffall would resign his position to focus on a new role as provost at Howard University, though he will remain on the board. His replacement will be Robert Taylor, a Dallas attorney who had retired as Komen’s founding board member in 2010.

Of the group’s local leadership, Chris McDonald, head of the Komen affiliate in Oregon and Southwest Washington, announced on February 25 that she would resign. She said the controversy over Planned Parenthood affected her decision, but it was not the primary cause, according to a statement on the group’s website.

Dara Richardson-Heron, the head of Komen’s affiliate for greater New York City, announced on the group’s website she was stepping down as “a personal decision.”

The recent exodus follows the resignation of Karen Handel, a senior executive charged with spearheading the decision to cut funding for Planned Parenthood.

Some of Komen’s members have also called for the resignation of founder Nancy Brinker, who created the organization in honor of her sister, who died from breast cancer.

Komen’s board said it had “complete confidence” in the group’s leadership.

“This isn’t about Komen. This is about women,” Aun said about the charity’s work. “If people understand what’s at stake, they’ll come back and be supportive.”

Editing by Michele Gershberg and David Brunnstrom

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