Earlier today, Susan G. Komen for the Cure accepted the resignation of Karen Handel, vice president for public affairs at the organization since April 2011. After announcing it would withdraw grants to Planned Parenthood, the breast cancer awareness group was forced by public backlash to reverse its decision earlier this week.
In her letter of resignation, Handel acknowledged she had a major role in Komen's recent decision to stop grants to Planned Parenthood, but denied the move was based on politics.
Following the announcement, the Greater NYC Komen for the Cure affiliate released a statement that implied its earlier statement of solidarity with the national Komen organization had been less than enthusiastic.
Komen Greater NYC released a statement from its CEO, Dr. Dara P. Richardson-Heron that said, in part:
Komen Greater NYC leadership has been working behind-the-scenes to express our own views and yours on this subject and we are happy to report that the Komen National Board of Directors heard our concerns.
Reactions throughout the Westchester area has been mixed, but weighted against Komen's initial plan to defund Planned Parenthood with more than 64 percent of Patch users saying the decision was "a PR disaster."
Though the grant funds from Komen were used for breast health services, including breast exams and mammography referrals, many anti-abortion advocates still staunchly oppose Planned Parenthood. About three percent of Planned Parenthood's operating budget is used for abortion services. , Beverly Katz of Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic said they already adhere to federal guidelines that restrict the use of public monies for abortion services.
While Karen Handel maintained the policy change she advocated, which disqualified Planned Parenthood for grants because it is currently under Congressional investigation, was politically neutral, it was widely believed the underlying reason was that Planned Parenthood offers abortion services.
During an unsuccessful 2010 Georgia campaign for governor, Handel publicly vowed to defund Planned Parenthood. According to a report by the Huffington Post, Handel wanted to use the ongoing Congressional investigation as a smokescreen for defunding Planned Parenthood though abortion was the real motivation: "Karen Handel was the prime instigator of this effort, and she herself personally came up with investigation criteria," the source, who requested anonymity for professional reasons, told HuffPost. "She said, 'If we just say it's about investigations, we can defund Planned Parenthood and no one can blame us for being political.'"
Handel said her resignation letter:
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.
Though Handel's position was known before she joined Komen in April 2011, organization founder Nancy Brinker distanced herself and the organization from Handel in a statement:
"We have made mistakes in how we have handled recent decisions and take full accountability for what has resulted, but we cannot take our eye off the ball when it comes to our mission," she said. "To do this effectively, we must learn from what we've done right, what we've done wrong and achieve our goal for the millions of women who rely on us. The stakes are simply too high and providing hope for a cure must drive our efforts.