Maryland staff of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation and Planned Parenthood, whose parent organizations shared national controversy this past week, have been deluged with phone calls and emails even though the two groups haven’t worked together in the state.
The numerous queries from the public — both supporters and detractors — have “given us an opportunity to talk about what’s happening,” said Lenore Koors, operations director for Komen Maryland.
The national Komen organization announced last week that it would stop providing grants to Planned Parenthood clinics to provide breast cancer screenings, state officials said.
The decision later was reversed after an outcry that Komen’s board had been politically motivated against Planned Parenthood.
“Overwhelmingly, the response has been positive from our supporters,” said Christie Lyn Diller, director of communications for Planned Parenthood of Maryland. “They’re really rallying behind Planned Parenthood.”
As it happens, the national Komen foundation’s decision regarding Planned Parenthood did not affect Maryland, because since 1994 Komen has had a partnership with county health departments to provide the breast and cervical cancer screening exams, Koors said.
In some parts of the country, particularly poor and rural regions without other health care infrastructure in place, Komen had provided grants to Planned Parenthood to provide the screenings, said Brittany Fowler, communications and development director for Komen Maryland.
Komen operates 29 programs across Maryland, which has a better health infrastructure, she said.
All of the money Komen has provided to Planned Parenthood organizations across the country has gone for breast and cervical cancer screenings, Fowler said. None of the Komen grants, she said, has paid for abortions, believed to be the source of the controversy with Planned Parenthood.
Abortions account for about 3 percent of all the services provided by Planned Parenthood, the organization said.
Most of the $4 million raised by Komen Maryland’s Race for the Cure and other fundraisers stays in Maryland, while $800,000 was sent by Komen Maryland to the national organization to fund research grants, Fowler said.
Komen sent $1.6 million in grants to Maryland research institutions such as Johns Hopkins University to fund studies.
Planned Parenthood of Maryland provides screenings for women at its health care offices as well, but has never applied for a grant from Komen, Diller said.
As for Komen, it is too soon to tell whether the national controversy has hurt its Maryland operations, Koors said.
“Hopefully, the community will stay in support of us,” she said.
“We’re responding personally to emails that come in,” Fowler said. “We’re driving people to the website. We’re really doing our best to keep the trust going.”
Planned Parenthood of Maryland has seen a small increase in donations since the controversy, Diller said.
Even though Komen and Planned Parenthood of Maryland never have had a working relationship, “we’re both working for the same cause — women’s health,” Diller said. “We certainly support what they’re doing, and we’re glad things have smoothed over.”
The national controversy has done some good for Planned Parenthood, she said.
“It’s been a whirlwind experience, and the most positive outcome is it’s drawn attention to what Planned Parenthood really does, which is preventive services,” Diller said.