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Susan G. Komen Loses Support After Planned Parenthood Decision

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Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)

Stacey Tillman, a 47-year-old woman from Sandusky, Ohio, says she has donated over $300 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure each year for the past nine years. The issue is close to her heart, she says, because her aunt had breast cancer.

This year, however, following the news that Komen has pulled breast exam funds from Planned Parenthood for political reasons, Tillman is sending her money straight to the family planning provider instead.

"I donated $250 this morning, and then I'll see what I can do in a couple months if I can get more," she told HuffPost in a phone interview. "I've had family members in financial difficulty that have used Planned Parenthood for pap smears and breast cancer screenings. They're getting my money now because they help the needy and the people who fell through the cracks."

After partnering with Planned Parenthood for the past five years to provide cancer screenings to low-income patients, Komen announced on Tuesday that it would sever ties with the family planning provider because it is under investigation in Congress. However, the groups that prompted that investigation are anti-abortion advocacy organizations that have long criticized Planned Parenthood over the fact that some of its clinics offer abortions.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) both criticized and revoked their support for Komen on Wednesday. "I was perplexed and troubled to see the decision by Susan G. Komen for the Cure to cut off funding for life-saving breast cancer screenings through Planned Parenthood because of a political witch hunt by House Republicans. I truly hope that they will reconsider this decision and put the needs of women first," Boxer said in a statement.

"I have been a big booster of the Susan G. Komen organization, but not anymore," Speier said on the House floor.

One of Komen's own affiliates withdrew its support as well. The Connecticut affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure said in a statement on Wednesday that it "shares" people's frustration over the decision and that it will continue funding Planned Parenthood of New England.

"The decision regarding the funding of Planned Parenthood was made by Susan G. Komen for the Cure National Headquarters," the group posted on its Facebook wall. "Susan G. Komen for the Cure Connecticut enjoys a great partnership with Planned Parenthood, and is currently funding Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. We understand, and share, in the frustration around this situation. We hope that any investigation prohibiting Planned Parenthood from receiving Komen grants is promptly resolved."

Komen has faced a massive social media backlash since announcing the decision, with angry people flocking to its message boards and Facebook wall to announce that they will no longer donate to the breast cancer charity.

Many commenters on Facebook have complained that Komen is scrubbing some of the more negative comments from its wall, but a spokesperson for Komen said the organization is only deleting the profane ones.

"We have not and do not scrub negative comments from Facebook unless they include profanity," said Leslie Aun, vice president of communications for Komen. "There have been some serious misrepresentations of our position, which is unfortunate. The level of interest reflects the fact that people care deeply about breast cancer and women's health issues."

The main sentiment among the thousands of people posting online seems to be that regardless of one's position on the issue of abortion, it is wrong to politicize women's health. According to a new Polipulse analysis of online conversations about the issue, only 26 percent of people believe Komen made the right decision. Nearly a quarter of the people who expressed criticism of Komen's decision online said they were going to pull their donations from Komen.

In contrast, Planned Parenthood has seen a huge influx of financial donations in the 24 hours since Komen broke ties. While the organization has not officially released the new donation numbers yet, a source close to the issue said they've raised "hundreds of thousands" of dollars in individual donations during that period. That, combined with a donation of $250,000 from Texas oil executive Lee Fikes and his wife Amy for a "Breast Health Emergency Fund," could put the family planning provider on track to match or surpass the roughly $680,000 it received from Komen in 2011.

Planned Parenthood said it also saw a spike in people making appointments for breast examinations Wednesday.

"The silver lining is that more people than ever are aware that Planned Parenthood provides breast exams, and we're seeing more people calling us today to make an appointment," Tait Sye, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood, told HuffPost. "Politics should not get in the way of women's health, and people respond powerfully when they see politics interfering with women's health."

UPDATE: 3:40 p.m. -- Planned Parenthood announced on Wednesday that it has received $400,000 from about 6,000 donors since Komen announced it was cutting funding to the organization on Tuesday afternoon.

The donations "send a message to stand up to bullying and protect access to health care," said Sye.

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