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Women outraged after breast cancer charity drops Planned Parenthood funding

FARGO - A lot of women are mad at Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and some in the area are among them.

The organization known for its pink ribbon and determination to help end breast cancer has decided to stop giving money to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer exams and breast health services.

Prairie Rose Seminole, a coordinator at Native American Center Project in Fargo, said Planned Parenthood provides primary health care and cancer screenings for many women who otherwise would not have access to them.

"Low-income women, particularly in this area, have limited resources and so go unaware or are diagnosed at a later, less curable stage of cancer," she said. "Without these types of programs, more of our poor will die."

Amy Jacobson, North Dakota public affairs manager for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, said the affiliate provided more than 15,000 breast cancer screenings last year across the three states.

Jacobson said it was unfortunate the foundation felt it needed "to succumb to pressure from politically motivated groups." Planned Parenthood has said anti-abortion groups repeatedly threatened the Komen Foundation for partnering with the nonprofit.

Nancy G. Brinker, CEO and founder of the Komen Foundation, denied in an online video the foundation bowed to political pressure and said its grant strategies changed in an effort to further the group's mission. The grants were worth $680,000 last year.

Yet at least one top Komen official has resigned in protest, and some of the foundation's state branches have been publicly critical.

On websites across the country, women are sounding off on the issue. Colleen Sheehy, director and CEO of the Plains Art Museum in Fargo, posted on The Forum's SheSays Facebook page: "I'm appalled at yet another attack on women's health care and women being in charge of their own health and bodies. It's a proven fact: When women do well in this country and around the world, the society does well."

Many women are threatening to pull their Komen donations and others are showering Planned Parenthood with money to make up the loss. Fargo attorney Cheryl Bergian, who has a family history of breast cancer, said she doesn't want to have a knee-jerk reaction, but she hopes the decision will be reversed.

"Every time we remove funding for these kinds of services, we put women at risk," she said.

But there are also those who support the decision. A Family Research Council email is being circulated locally encouraging people to thank the foundation.

Pauline Economon, FirstChoice Clinic executive director, said Planned Parenthood is the largest provider of abortion in the U.S. and claimed abortions are linked to breast cancer - a notion the American Cancer Society and other medical groups say isn't backed by scientific study.

"We think it's in the best interest of women's health that they do that," she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526