Today, Karen Handel, Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s controversial Senior Vice President of Public Policy, resigned in protest of the organization’s decision to consider reinstating funding for cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood health centers.
Handel has been at the center of the firestorm surrounding the organization’s unpopular decision to sever ties with Planned Parenthood — a decision that was reversed just a few days later following a massive backlash from supporters and its own employees.
In her resignation letter, Handel openly acknowledges her integral role in formulating the policy designed to cut off Planned Parenthood funding. Just a few days ago, Komen founder and president Nancy Brinker claimed, “Let me just tell you for the record that Karen did not have anything to do with this decision.”
Handel does not specifically defend the rules she pushed through, but decries the charity’s decision to reverse course, arguing that the proper procedure was followed:
We can all agree that this is a challenging and deeply unsettling situation for all involved in the fight against breast cancer. However, Komen’s decision to change its granting strategy and exit the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood and its grants was fully vetted by every appropriate level within the organization.
At the November Board meeting, the Board received a detailed review of the new model and related criteria. As you will recall, the Board specifically discussed various issues, including the need to protect our mission by ensuring we were not distracted or negatively affected by any other organization’s real or perceived challenges. No objections were made to moving forward.
I am deeply disappointed by the gross mischaracterizations of the strategy, its rationale, and my involvement in it. I openly acknowledge my role in the matter and continue to believe our decision was the best one for Komen’s future and the women we serve. However, the decision to update our granting model was made before I joined Komen, and the controversy related to Planned Parenthood has long been a concern to the organization.
Neither the decision nor the changes themselves were based on anyone’s political beliefs or ideology. Rather, both were based on Komen’s mission and how to better serve women, as well as a realization of the need to distance Komen from controversy.
The idea that Komen wanted to stop funding cancer screenings for poor women to distance itself from controversy is particularly ironic, given that their decision accomplished just the opposite. The organization’s popularity has plummeted and they are already struggling to lure back donors.
Handel not only has a long anti-choice history, but pledged to eliminate grants for Planned Parenthood to provide breast and cervical cancer screenings when she ran for governor of Georgia in 2010.
In the letter, Handel declines any severance package, which will allow her to speak openly about her differences with Komen.