Peninsula Planned Parenthood has ‘pretty wild’ week over off-on Komen grants

PORT ANGELES — This past week was “pretty wild.” Then it had a “phenomenal” ending.

That’s how Jack Slowriver, area services director for Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, put it Friday.

She and her agency, which operates health clinics in Port Angeles and Sequim, were in the midst of a national outcry that intensified over three days — to culminate in a reversal and apology from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation.

It all began when Komen, which makes grants to Planned Parenthood clinics around the United States for breast cancer screenings and education, announced last Tuesday that it was pulling such grants.

Then came the uprising: on the phone, on the social media website Facebook and from people who went to the Planned Parenthood clinic in Seattle.

“People started driving by and coming in. And a lot of the people who called hadn’t been our supporters. They were new to Planned Parenthood,” said Kristen Glundberg-Prossor, district spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest.

The people were expressing their great dismay with the Komen decision, Glundberg-Prossor said.

Komen had announced it was cutting its grants because Planned Parenthood is the subject of a congressional investigation into whether federal money is funding abortions at its clinics.

Accusations flew nationwide, however, that Komen had caved in to pressure from political conservatives who have long opposed abortion.

“I was furious,” said Denise Brennan, who worked for the Port Angeles clinic when it was Family Planning of Clallam County.

“I heard from a lot of people in my circle,” added Slowriver, “who were upset that women were going to suffer because of politics.

“And that shouldn’t be the case.”

Next: the turnaround.

“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,” began Komen’s statement issued early Friday morning.

“We have been distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood. They were not.

“Our original desire was to fulfill our fiduciary duty to our donors by not funding grant applications made by organizations under investigation.

“We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature, and not political,” the statement continued.

“Our only goal for our granting process is to support women and families in the fight against breast cancer.”

Komen’s most recent grant to Clallam County’s Planned Parenthood clinic furnished $52,000 for a mobile mammography unit that traveled to the West End, providing breast cancer education and clinical breast examinations to women in isolated places such as Neah Bay and the Makah reservation.

The agency didn’t apply for another such grant for 2012; Slowriver said most West End communities had reached a point where they can provide their own services.

Brennan, however, said Planned Parenthood’s work is far from done.

“With the young girls becoming young women, the outreach is never finished,” said Brennan, adding that the tribal and Latina women of the West End continue to need services.

As for future grants, “we thought that door was going to stay open,” Slowriver said Friday.

“We didn’t think it was going to be slammed shut [by Komen].”

Now that Komen has reconsidered, Slowriver said, she “absolutely” intends to seek future funding.

She said plans are already made to provide services in Clallam Bay.

In 2011, the Komen-funded mobile mammography unit — actually a van from Seattle’s Swedish Medical Center — served 415 women with information about self-exams, clinical exams and mammograms.

Also last year, Planned Parenthood’s Port Angeles clinic logged 1,767 unduplicated patients and 2,898 visits, while the Sequim clinic saw 515 patients and 815 visits.

Yet Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest has suffered from overall budget cuts and staff layoffs, Glundberg-Prossor said.

Its clinics in Forks, Silverdale and Oak Harbor closed in December.

The Port Angeles clinic at 426 E. Eighth St. is open just three days a week, from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays and from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays.

Sequim’s Planned Parenthood at 675 N. Fifth Ave. is open from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Jefferson County family-planning clinics — operated by the county Department of Public Health rather than Planned Parenthood — are at 615 Sheridan St., Port Townsend, open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. by appointment at 360-385-9400; and on Roger Street in Quilcene on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. by phoning 360-765-3014.

For information, see Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest on Facebook, visit www.PlannedParenthood.org or phone 800-230-PLAN (7526).

________

Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

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