Chicago branches of Parenthood-Komen decision react to social media storm

February 02, 2012|By Leonor Vivanco, RedEye

Update: Susan G. Komen for the Cure said on Friday it was retreating from a decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion and birth control services, and apologized for a move that thrust the world's largest breast cancer charity into a deeply politicized controversy. (Reuters)

The decision of Susan G. Komen for the Cureto cut most of its funding to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America set off a social media storm this week.

Some Chicagoans tweeted about anger and disappointment, with past supporters vowing not to raise money for the breast cancer charity. Some shared an e-card photo on Facebook that read "Thank you for cutting off funding to cancer screening programs in order to prove that you are pro-life." An open letter of support for Planned Parenthood also appeared online.

Meanwhile, supporters of Komen's decision voiced their approval but appeared to be in the minority on Facebook wall posts made to the group's Chicagoland area affiliate.

Komen denied Thursday that its decision to pull funding for Planned Parenthood had anything to do with pressure from groups who oppose the organization's abortion services. It said the decision was part of a new strategy aimed at using donation money more effectively by eliminating duplicate grants and tightening eligibility rules.

That included barring money to groups under investigation by U.S. authorities. Planned Parenthood is the subject of a probe by U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, a Florida Republican who opposes abortion.

"With regards to our Facebook strategy, we are continuing to keep our fans up to speed on a regular basis and allowing all comments that do not contain any profanity to remain visible on the wall," Michael Ziener, executive director of the Chicago branch of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, said in an e-mailed statement.

"We certainly encourage all of our constituents to express their feelings on Facebook. Additionally, we encourage all of our constituents to remain in touch with this story as it evolves."

Planned Parenthood also was rallying its supporters.

"We've been getting a lot of support on social media. A lot of people have signed on to the letter we sent out. A lot of women are sharing their stories about how Planned Parenthood was there for them," said Lara Philipps, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Illinois.

Since the open letter was posted online Wednesday afternoon, it had the signatures of 120,000 people, she said.

"Obviously, it has been very busy here. We've been tweeting and responding to people and letting people know what they can do to help support us as well," Philipps said.

In the first 24 hours on Tuesday after the news broke, Planned Parenthood said it raised more than $400,000 online to the Breast Health Emergency Fund from more than 6,000 donors. Amy and Lee Fikes pledged to donate $250,000 and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he would donate up to $250,000 as a matching gift, she said.

Planned Parenthood of Illinois, which does not receive any funding from Komen, on its Facebook page shared a Tumblr link unaffiliated with the organization where people started posting stories Wednesday about how Planned Parenthood impacted their lives.

"Whether they're directly affected or not, this is an issue that women care about," Philipps said.

Reuters contributed. | @lvivanco

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