AP is reporting that Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world's leading breast-cancer organization, has accepted the resignation of Karen Handel, its SVP for public policy since April who was at the center of a firestorm after the Dallas-based non-profit pulled funding for breast-cancer screening to Planned Parenthood centers.
Handel, who's reportedly declining a severance package, was behind the pink-ribboned organization's recent policy to not give grants to any group under government investigation, a move that singled out Planned Parenthood — which is undergoing a Congressional inquiry into whether federal funds intended for reproductive education were being used for abortions. Komen last week reversed its decision and retinstated funding to Planned Parenthood, but still faced a backlash from breast cancer activists and others outraged at the politicizing of its brand.
Below, read Handel's resignation letter to Nancy Brinker, the founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which is named after her sister, in which she accepts responsibility for the defunding — but adds that it was in the works long before she joined Komen. Handel writes that "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."
The resignation played out on social media, as Komen's Twitter feed released a flurry of tweets in a seven-minute span regarding Handel's resignation, and linked to Brinker's statement on the situation:
Brinker's statement was brief:
"Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s mission is the same today as it was the day of its founding: to find a cure and eradicate breast cancer.
"We owe no less to our partners, supporters and, above all, the millions of people who have been and continue to be impacted by this life-threatening disease. 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. 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.
"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."
Handel's Twitter feed, meanwhile, pointed to a new Twitter account linking to her resignation letter:
And here's Handel's resignation letter that was emailed to Brinker:
The Honorable Nancy Brinker
CEO, Susan G. Komen for the Cure
5005 LBJ Freeway, Suite 250
Dallas, Texas 75244
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.
Below, Handel's bio before it's removed from Komen's website: