Planned Parenthood controversy concerns local Komen supporter

  • Fri Feb 3rd, 2012 9:33pm
  • News

Sharon Salyer Herald Writer

SNOHOMISH — David Nansel has completed the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s three-day, 60-mile walk twice in the past two years.

His voiced choked with emotion Friday as he talked about the controversy overtaking the nation’s best-known nonprofit dedicated to breast cancer education, treatment and research.

“Susan G. Komen is the top breast cancer fundraiser in the world,” he said. “The monies that will be lost … no one has any idea what the long-term ramifications will be on the women diagnosed with breast cancer.”

The organization was unexpectedly swept up in nearly nonstop controversy all week. On Tuesday, word spread that Komen had adopted criteria to exclude Planned Parenthood from future grants for breast cancer screenings because it was under congressional investigation. The probe was launched by a Florida congressman at the urging of anti-abortion groups.

In addition to providing a number of reproductive checks and cancer screenings, Planned Parenthood provides birth control and, at some clinics, abortion services.

Komen’s decision about the Planned Parenthood grants ignited a national storm of protests, fueled by the near instant communication of social media sites such as Facebook.

One protest poster featured a large pair of scissors with the bright pink ribbon associated with breast cancer causes cut in half. “I’m cutting my support for Komen. I stand with Planned Parenthood,” it said.

Caught in the crossfire between those who supported and opposed the decision, the organization on Friday amended its previous announcement.

“We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants,” the statement said.

The statement also apologized “for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives.”

In Washington, the current $52,000 grant to Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest paid for 400 women in rural areas of Clallam County to receive breast cancer screenings, spokeswoman Kristen Glundberg-Prossor said.

Women were given a clinical breast exam. If lumps or other potential problems were found, mammography services were provided by a van operated by Seattle-based Swedish Health Services, she said.

The protest of the Komen Foundation’s initial decision triggered a national outpouring of financial support for Planned Parenthood. The $3 million raised this week will be used for breast cancer screenings, Glundberg-Prossor said.

It’s too early to know how much of that money might come to Washington, she added.

Jim Clune, communication manager for the Puget Sound Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, said that the organization has received a mix of responses to the announcement made by the national organization Tuesday.

“The initial response was from people very concerned and very angry,” he said. “This is an emotional issue.”

It was followed by calls and emails from those “supportive of our cause and hoping this wouldn’t distract from the good work that we’re trying to do,” he said.

The local organization’s three-day walk this year is scheduled to begin Sept. 14.

“We’re pretty confident that by the time the three-day comes around, people will be focusing on the reason to be there, which is to find a cure,” he said.

Nansel, who has gained an avid following among local Komen participants and supporters, said he plans to join those participating in the event again this year.

In 2009, he exchanged marriage vows with Wendy Nansel as the Komen walk made an overnight encampment at Kasch Park in Everett. Wendy Nansel had been diagnosed with breast cancer at age 35.

The pirate-themed wedding has been widely viewed on YouTube. She has since celebrated her fifth year without a recurrence.

In 2010, Nansel was the man remembered among the throngs of walkers for wearing a pink skirt and loudly clanging a cowbell as the route took him though Everett neighborhoods, his trademark way bringing attention to the cause of breast cancer awareness.

And last year, Nansel was photographed near the end of the walk sporting a pink-tinted goatee and pink ribbons festooned on his shaved head, managing a smile despite walking with a badly injured knee.

After reading and listening to some of the angry comments made about the Komen foundation this week, Nansel said he worries about the potential for lingering effects.

“My guess is that a lot of this will be emotional decisions and emotional decisions are never good,” he said.

“This whole thing just infuriates me,” he said. “My fear is the future.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or