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Komen exec who backed Planned Parenthood cutoff quits cancer group

February 7, 2012 |  8:49 am

   
Karen Handel, the vice president of public policy at Susan G. Komen for the Cure, has quit her post at the breast cancer charity; her move comes on the heels of the group's reversal of its decision to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood.

In her letter of resignation, Handel, a conservative Republican who unsuccessfully ran for Georgia governor in 2010, said she had supported ending the funding of about $700,000. The charity ultimately decided to continue the grants after the cutoff sparked a nationwide furor fueled by social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

Handel's resignation was first reported by the Associated Press.

Komen, known for raising money through events such as races and walks, said last week that it had adopted criteria excluding Planned Parenthood from future grants for breast-cancer screenings and education programs because a conservative congressman had announced an investigation of the organization, which provides abortions as part of its services.

Komen’s action sparked a political outcry, with Democrats and liberals saying the move was part of a broad campaign against Planned Parenthood for its position on abortions. Handel was singled out for criticism because of her conservative political views.

Handel denied politics played a role in the initial funding cutoff.

“Neither the decision nor the changes themselves were based on anyone’s political beliefs or ideology,” she wrote in her resignation letter. “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. I believe that Komen, like any other nonprofit organization, has the right and the responsibility to set criteria and highest standards for how and to whom it grants.”

Handel called the uproar 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,” she wrote. “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.”

Nancy B. Brinker, Komen founder and chief executive, released this statement:

"Today I accepted the resignation of Karen Handel, who has served as Senior Vice President for Policy since April 2011. I have known Karen for many years, and we both share a common commitment to our organization's lifelong mission, which must always remain our sole focus. I wish her the best in future endeavors."

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