Karen Handel Resigns From Komen Foundation

Karen Handel has resigned from the Susan G Komen Foundation, but not with much in the way of regret. Here is her resignation letter.

Dear Ambassador Brinker:

Susan G. Komen for the Cure has been the recognized leader for more 30 years in the fight against breast cancer here in the US – and increasingly around the world.

As you know, I have always kept Komen’s mission and the women we serve as my highest priority – as they have been for the entire organization, the Komen Affiliates, our many supporters and donors, and the entire community of breast cancer survivors. I have carried out my responsibilities faithfully and in line with the Board’s objectives and the direction provided by you and Liz.

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. 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.

What was a thoughtful and thoroughly reviewed decision – one that would have indeed enabled Komen to deliver even greater community impact – has unfortunately been turned into something about politics. This is entirely untrue. This development should sadden us all greatly.

Just as Komen’s best interests and the fight against breast cancer have always been foremost in every aspect of my work, so too are these my priorities in coming to the decision to resign effective immediately. While I appreciate your raising a possible severance package, I respectfully decline. It is my most sincere hope that Komen is allowed to now refocus its attention and energies on its mission.

I'm certain we will be hearing about how Handel's resignation is the result of a witch hunt sparked from the left's outcry. However, I note that there was nothing political about Komen until they chose to rebuke Planned Parenthood based upon an investigation opened for nothing other than political purposes. Mitt Romney's leap onto the bandwagon is evidence of how such a decision played out, as is Komen's decision to involve Ari Fleischer in the planning and execution of their strategy.

When you hear the screams and shrieks from the right wing, just remember that the Komen Foundation had been pressured for years to withdraw their support from Planned Parenthood, but until the arrival of Karen Handel, they hadn't actually done it. At one point, Komen had actually issued a statement in support of their grant decisions to Planned Parenthood. Here is an excerpt:

The grants in question supplied breast health counseling, screening, and treatments to rural women, poor women, Native American women, many women of color who were underserved -- if served at all -- in areas where Planned Parenthood facilities were often the only infrastructure available. Though it meant losing corporate money from Curves, we were not about to turn our backs on these women. Somehow this position translated to the utterly false assertion that SGK funds abortions.

And somehow, when Karen Handel came on the scene, this all flipped around so that those women suddenly didn't seem as important. Who politicized what, again?


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