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Supporters grapple with Komen fracas fallout

Some participants in Susan G. Komen for the Cure events, like this run in San Diego, have reconsidered their support in the wake of a controversy over Planned Parenthood funding this week.

Fierce controversy over a policy that cut -- then apparently restored -- funding for Planned Parenthood by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast-cancer charity has left some longtime supporters of both groups feeling whipsawed by the fallout.

Fans who’ve worn pink ribbons and jogged in Race for the Cure runs and those who’ve supported women’s reproductive health services had mixed reactions following news Friday that Komen had agreed to amend criteria that would have barred Planned Parenthood from future grants.

Some Komen supporters said the organization had alienated them forever by cutting funding in the first place based on perceived political pressure from anti-abortion groups.

“It’s difficult for me to want to continue to support Komen now,” said Peg Callaway, 63, a lawyer from Omak, Wash. “It makes me mistrust the organization.”

As the Associated Press first reported Tuesday, Komen had adopted criteria excluding Planned Parenthood from future grants for breast-cancer screening because it was under government investigation, citing a probe launched by a Florida congressman at the urging of anti-abortion groups.

The decision was made in December, but became public this week, igniting a firestorm of protest. By Friday, Komen appeared to back off the plan, saying it would fund existing Planned Parenthood grants, and that the agency would be eligible for future grants. Some critics said it wasn't clear how the decision actually would affect future grants.

Still, Callaway remained suspicious.

“They’ve done a lot of damage to themselves,” she said.

Others, however, said that Komen’s quick reversal made them want to give an agency another chance. Dina Lalli-Bender, 47, of Laurel Springs, N.J., said she participated last year in a Race for the Cure event in Philadelphia in memory of close friends and family members lost to breast cancer.

“I’ll continue to do the run now,” said Lalli-Bender, a senior manager at a trade show labor firm. “Now that they’ve changed their minds, maybe they’ve seen that people were outraged by it.”

But avid Komen supporters who had been cheered by what they saw as a strong stand against Planned Parenthood were dismayed that the agency appeared to back off.

“I was very disappointed to hear that the decision was reversed so quickly,” said Rita C. Hruschak, 69, a retired nurse from Webster, N.Y. “It was barely warming up the griddle. The hope for a positive change to some good morals was lost too soon.”

She pointed to Planned Parenthood’s huge base of support -- including $3 million and 10,000 Facebook fans raised during the three days of the controversy -- as evidence that the agency could fund breast cancer screenings on its own. Planned Parenthood previously had received about $700,000 a year from Komen.

“So you know, they don’t really need Komen’s help or support,” she said.

In an informal msnbc.com poll Thursday, more than 6,000 respondents considered whether the controversy would alter their donations to either group.

Some 73 percent of people of took the poll said it would increase their donations to Planned Parenthood, while about 17 percent said it would increase funding to Komen. Nine percent of respondents said they don’t donate to either group.

Only 1 percent said they’d continue donating to both.

Has the Komen decision, and then apparent reversal, changed how you feel about the organization? Tell us on Facebook.


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