Planned Parenthood president says Komen controversy has had benefits

The Charlotte ObserverFebruary 8, 2012 

Speaking in Charlotte on Tuesday, the national president of Planned Parenthood said last week's angry reaction to a funding cut by the Susan G. Komen foundation not only benefited Planned Parenthood financially but raised awareness of its mission.

"We heard from tens of thousands of people," Cecile Richards told the Observer. "It was a fabulous opportunity to frankly educate a lot of people in America about the preventive care we do."

Richards headlined a fundraiser for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund at the Levine Museum of the New South.

Her appearance came on the same day that a Komen official blamed for the controversy resigned. Karen Handel, vice president of public policy at Komen - a nonprofit organization that fights breast cancer - backed the group's move to cut funding to Planned Parenthood. Late last week, Komen reversed its decision after days of criticism.

In a resignation letter, Handel, a Republican who unsuccessfully ran for Georgia governor in 2010, wrote: "What was a thoughtful and thoroughly reviewed decision (to sever ties) - one that would have indeed enabled Komen to deliver even greater community impact - has unfortunately been turned into something about politics."

Richards said Tuesday night that it was actually Planned Parenthood's critics who injected politics.

Komen had announced it would end grants for breast-cancer screenings because Planned Parenthood was under government investigation. A Republican congressman from Florida started the probe to determine whether the group has illegally used government money for abortions.

"What we saw last week," Richards said, "was Americans are just tired of people playing politics with women's health care. ... By reversing this decision, I think (Komen) has gone a long way to reassuring folks that they don't want to get between women and their health care."

Richards, daughter of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, said Planned Parenthood has raised about $3 million since the controversy began.

In addition to birth control, Planned Parenthood provides screenings for breast and cervical cancer.

"The good news is it means we'll be able to provide a lot more health care to women," she said.

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