NEW YORK -- Leaders of the nation's pre-eminent breast-cancer charity didn't see the firestorm coming -- and couldn't withstand it.
Dallas-based Susan G. Komen for the Cure abandoned plans Friday to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood. The retreat followed a three-day furor that resounded across the Internet, in Congress and among Komen affiliates that openly rebelled, suggesting that the leaders had bowed to anti-abortion pressure.
"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," Komen said in a statement.
Komen had adopted criteria excluding Planned Parenthood from grants for breast-cancer screenings because it was under government investigation, citing an inquiry launched by a Florida congressman at the urging of anti-abortion groups.
"We will amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political," Komen said Friday. "That is what is right and fair."
As a result, Komen said, "we will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants."
Komen officials were unavailable for further comment on why they changed their plans. There was no indication that the organization had come under pressure from corporate partners. But many Komen affiliates nationwide objected to cutting off the grants, which totaled $680,000 in 2011. An affiliate in Aspen, Colo., said Thursday that it would defy the new rules and continue grants to its local Planned Parenthood partner, and all seven Komen affiliates in California said they "strongly opposed" the planned cutoff.
In addition, Komen was inundated with negative comments via e-mails, on Twitter and on its Facebook page. Many messages conveyed a determination to halt gifts to Komen, organizer of the popular Race for the Cure events, because of the decision.
For its part, Planned Parenthood was reporting an outpouring of donations, large and small, that totaled $3 million from Tuesday evening to Friday afternoon. The organization said the funds would be used to expand its breast-health services, which provide nearly 750,000 breast exams each year.
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said in a telephone news conference that she was astonished by the flow of donations and the often emotional support expressed for her organization on the Internet.
"This was simply a story, when it broke, it just caught fire," she said. "This kind of political bullying -- folks are just saying, 'Enough.'"
Anti-abortion groups had pressed Komen for years to end its partnership with Planned Parenthood, even by recalling pink Bibles that were benefiting Komen and by boycotting Race for the Cure events.
Abortion opponents, who applauded when the funding cutoff was reported this week, were dismayed by Friday's turnaround.
"The Susan G. Komen Foundation has caved in to the demands of radical abortion apologists," said Douglas Scott Jr. of Life Decisions International, which had been considering whether to remove Komen from a boycott list of Planned Parenthood partners.
Scott said Komen should have anticipated a backlash once word of its cutoff plans became public.
He said Komen "has either engaged in a nasty ruse ... or it is led by the most naive people on earth."
Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, accused Planned Parenthood of employing a "scorched-earth strategy to force compliance with their pro-abortion agenda."
"I don't find it surprising that Komen is dancing around trying to get their way out of this," said Yoest, a breast-cancer survivor. "Who wants to go up against a billion-dollar organization which is perfectly capable of using thug tactics against even their friends?"
More funding threats?
Komen may find other means in coming years of cutting ties with Planned Parenthood. Its founder and CEO, Nancy Brinker, spoke in a news conference Thursday of shifting more grants to organizations that provide mammograms themselves, whereas Planned Parenthood generally refers women elsewhere for mammograms.
Asked about this Friday, Richards said she is optimistic that the renewed partnership will endure because of the close relationships between many Komen and Planned Parenthood local affiliates.
Komen said it is immediately starting to reach out to affiliates and supporters to get the charity back on track.
"We urge everyone who has participated in this conversation across the country over the last few days to help us move past this issue," Komen's statement said. "We do not want our mission marred or affected by politics -- anyone's politics."