NEW YORK — The Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast-cancer charity on Friday abandoned plans to eliminate grants to Planned Parenthood. The startling decision came after three days of virulent criticism that resounded across the Internet, jeopardizing Komen's iconic image.
"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.
Komen said it would change the criteria "to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political."
"We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants," the statement said.
In the Triangle, Komen's communications manager Carrie Kovalick resigned after the organization announced it would cut funding to Planned Parenthood. On Friday, Kovalick said she was happy to hear that Komen reversed that decision but said she doesn't plan to return to the organization.
Komen says just one person locally resigned. WRAL News has learned a second person recently stepped down and that the controversy was a main factor in the person's decision.
Kathy Burns, Komen's interim executive director in the Triangle, said her office got more than 100 emails about the controversy. Most of them expressed concern about the decision, and some threatened to pull their donations.
"I think we were experiencing a lot of emotion from people," Burns said, adding that her office forwarded all the emails to Komen's national office.
Burns said she is "very, very pleased" that Komen reversed the decision.
"We are all about wanting to move forward with our mission, because that's the most important thing for us," she said. "This has kind of been a distraction, very honestly, to have this going on."
Burns said Komen still plans to have its annual Triangle Race for the Cure on June 9, and they are expecting a large crowd.
"I hope people will be able to kind of look past this last week and say, 'You know, this is an organization that is still the largest privately-funded breast cancer organization in the world,'" Burns said.
Melissa Reed, Planned Parenthood's vice president for public policy, said she is looking forward to renewing "what I think has been a very strong, long-term, committed relationship to ending breast cancer."
Many of Komen's affiliates across the country had openly rebelled against the decision to cut the funding, which totaled $680,000 in 2011. One affiliate, in Aspen, Colo., had announced Thursday that it would defy the new rules and continue grants to its local Planned Parenthood partner.
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 support — donations large and small, triggered by the Komen decision, that it said surpassed $900,000.
Planned Parenthood's president, Cecile Richards, thanked those donors Friday and welcomed Komen's change of heart.
"We are enormously grateful that the Komen Foundation has clarified its grant-making criteria," Richards said. "What these past few days have demonstrated is the deep resolve all Americans share in the fight against cancer."
Through the Komen grants, Planned Parenthood says its health centers provided nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams and more than 6,400 mammogram referrals over the past five years.
Komen, in its statement, said it was immediately starting an outreach to its affiliates and supporters to get the charity back on track.
"We urge everyone who has participated in this conversation across the country over the last few days to help us move past this issue," Komen said. "We do not want our mission marred or affected by politics — anyone's politics."