Komen Aspen ‘played leading role’ in nationwide rebellion
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – Staff of the Aspen affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure were responding Friday to dozens of emails and phone calls sent earlier in the week when it appeared that Komen would cut off its funding to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings.
“We lost support in the last few days. People said they were boycotting the race or the ride,” said Logan Hood, executive director of the Komen Aspen affiliate.
What the critics didn’t realize is that the Komen Aspen affiliate had defied the national Komen policy to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood, and insisted on continuing to provide financial support for the Planned Parenthood clinic in Glenwood Springs.
“The Colorado affiliates of Komen sent a strong signal to their national foundation by echoing the sentiment of many Americans, which is to keep politics out of women’s health,” said Vicki Cowart, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.
Facing rebellion from affiliates in Colorado, Oregon, Washington and other states, the national Komen for the Cure organization reversed its Planned Parenthood funding policy on Friday morning and issued an apology.
“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,” said Nancy G. Brinker, Komen’s chief executive, in a written statement posted on the Komen website.
“We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants,” Brinker added.
Monica McCafferty, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said resistance to the funding cut-off from Komen’s Aspen and Denver affiliates “played a leading role” in prompting nationwide opposition from Komen’s local affiliates.
“We really appreciate the role that Aspen and Denver Komen played. What we saw with local Komen leaders was a strong statement that this is wrong, and their relationship with Planned Parenthood is important. It played to the ultimate national decision to reverse the policy,” McCafferty said.
“The Aspen and Denver Komen affiliates deserve a lot of credit. Colorado played a huge role in this policy reversal,” McCafferty added.
Hood said Komen Aspen argued against the funding cut-off from the moment it was first announced in December.
At the time, the national Komen headquarters said Planned Parenthood was no longer eligible for grant funding under a new policy that barred the foundation from donating to any agency that is under investigation by local, state or federal government.
U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., had already launched a congressional inquiry into Planned Parenthood spending and reporting. Planned Parenthood is frequently under attack by state and federal lawmakers because it provides abortions at many of its clinics, including the one in Glenwood Springs.
“Right away, we asked for an exception to the policy,” Hood said, noting that the Komen Denver affiliate took the same action. Komen Denver was granted an exemption, but Komen Aspen wasn’t.
Hood said national Komen officials felt the Mountain Family Health Center in Glenwood Springs, another Komen grant beneficiary, could handle the Planned Parenthood clinic’s caseload for breast cancer screenings.
“Because we had Mountain Family in our community, they thought people could go there,” Hood said. “But we felt it was too great a risk, that some women could slip through the cracks. Some people go to Planned Parenthood as their primary health-care provider. There might be some overlap, but it’s hard to know.”
Hood said there have been active conversations in recent weeks among Komen Aspen, the Glenwood Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, and Mountain Family Health Center over providing breast cancer screenings.
Komen’s grants fund a spectrum of services, offered at Planned Parenthood and Mountain Family Health Center, aimed at prevention and early detection of breast cancer. These include education about monthly self-exams, breast exams in the clinics, and referrals and financial assistance for mammograms.
McCafferty noted that for women whose mammograms yield a cancer diagnosis, a clinic staffer assists them as they move on to other health care providers.
“We tried to play nice,” Hood said of Komen Aspen’s request for an exemption from the funding policy. But when it was turned down, she said the Aspen affiliate’s board and its grant review committee unanimously agreed to defy the national policy.
“We said we have to do what is right for our community, regardless,” she said.
Although the Komen Aspen affiliate is a separately chartered nonprofit, Hood said no one knew what effect the funding rebellion would have on relations with the national organization.
Hood said she felt relieved when the national Komen organization reversed its policy Friday.
“I’m grateful they have come to their senses, because I don’t know how much more we could take locally,” she said, referring to the barrage of criticism aimed at Komen.
“More so than ever, our affiliate continues to focus on our community and our mission. We need to stay grounded in that. That’s why we come to work every day,” she said.
Now Hood and other Komen staffers are faced with rebuilding the organization’s standing with its supporters and donors who voiced opposition to the funding policy.
“We are responding to every single one of them, explaining that this is where we stood,” said Hood. Now, she said, the hope is that critics will reconsider their opposition and come out to support Komen Aspen’s races and other fundraising events.
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In the 1960s The Red Onion as the Aspen Ski Club would host an annual ski fashion preview, which in addition to clothing also included live music and a strip auction.