Nancy Brinker

Creating a Crisis with No Upside

Susan G. Komen for the Cure has built a reputation for enlisting volunteers and corporate partners to combat breast cancer. The charitable organization nicked that reputation this week in a baffling self-created crisis.

Komen announced early in the week it would stop funding breast cancer screenings by Planned Parenthood. At first, Komen said the cut-off resulted because of a new policy not to fund organizations under investigation. Later, top Komen officials said there was a shift in funding strategy. By week's end, after angry outcries from women's groups, doctors and influential senators in Congress, Komen backtracked on its decision.

In one short week, Komen guaranteed itself a place as a case study in communications textbooks of what not to do to avoid creating a crisis.

After Komen made its announcement, critics used social media to denounce the decision as bowing to political pressure by anti-abortion forces, which have conducted a campaign, aided by Congressional Republicans, to dry up public and private funding for Planned Parenthood. 

Planned Parenthood says abortions account for 5 percent of its health care activities, which include screening low-income women for breast and cervical cancer. Women's advocates note Planned Parenthood is often the only place where poor women can obtain any form of preventive health care.