Karen Handel: Komen VP steps down after Planned Parenthood flap

Karen Handel stepped down from her role as the top U.S. breast cancer charity's senior vice president.

A senior executive of the breast cancer charity Susan G. Komen for the Cure has resigned after a public outcry over the group’s decision to cut funding to women’s health organization Planned Parenthood.

Karen Handel, a Republican who once ran for governor of Georgia on a platform calling for defunding of Planned Parenthood, stepped down from her role as the top U.S. breast cancer charity’s senior vice president for public policy and chief lobbyist, the organization said on Tuesday.

“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,” Komen founder Nancy Brinker said in a statement. “I wish her the best in future endeavors.”

Komen’s move last week caused an uproar among supporters who also back Planned Parenthood, a provider of birth control, abortion and other health services. Komen reversed the decision on Friday.

Many had accused Komen of bowing to political pressure from anti-abortion groups. The charity says its move was guided by a new policy to not fund organizations under investigation by U.S. authorities.

“We have made mistakes in how we have handled recent decisions and take full accountability for what has resulted,” Brinker said on Tuesday. “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.”

Planned Parenthood is subject to a probe by Republican Representative Cliff Stearns. Komen funds about $700,000 in breast cancer exams and mammography referrals for poor women provided by Planned Parenthood.

Komen insiders have said Handel spent months pushing the plan to shift the organization’s grant strategy, leading the board to decide to cut off funding for 17 of the 19 Planned Parenthood affiliates in December.

Handel, who was hired last April as Komen’s policy director and chief lobbyist in Washington, maintained that the strategy and the board’s decision did not involve abortion politics.

“I am deeply disappointed by the gross mischaracterizations of the strategy, its rationale, and my involvement in it,” she said in a letter to Brinker, dated February 7.

“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.”

The Komen board’s decision retained $250,000 in funding for Planned Parenthood, including the organization’s three largest grants to the network of women’s health clinics.


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