Nancy G. Brinker, who founded the Susan G. Komen Foundation in honor of her late sister, is stepping down as the organization's CEO, but will remain in a leadership capacity. The move is one of several that have rocked the breast cancer charity over a decision to pull funding to Planned Parenthood earlier this year. The group ultimately reversed their initial decision but lost support as a result.
In addition to Brinker, Komen also announced that President Liz Thompson and board members Brenda Lauderback and Linda Law would be leaving the charity. Five other high-ranking officials have left the organization within the past few months.
Brinker's involvement with the charity came about after she promised her dying sister she would work to end breast cancer. Since that time, she has been the face of the organization and assumed the CEO role in 2009.
"Three years into that role, and 32 years after my promise to my sister to end breast cancer, I want now to focus on Susan G. Komen's global mission and raising resources to bring our promise to women all around the world," Brinker said in a written statement.
Thompson, who joined Komen in 2008 to lead its research and scientific programs and became president in 2010, said she is confident in the infrastructure and leadership of the organization that she built during her tenure at Komen. Thompson said the time is right for her to pursue other opportunities.
"Komen today is on an excellent path to recovery, with the most dynamic scientific and community health programs of any breast cancer organization, a strong Affiliate network, and committed leadership in all of these areas to build on our strengths and mission," she noted in the group's statement.
The controversy surrounding Komen began in January when the group decided to sever ties with Planned Parenthood after adopting new guidelines barring grants to organizations that are under investigation by local, state or federal authorities. Almost immediately a groundswell of support and opposition overwhelmed the group.
"As a breast cancer survivor, I applaud the decision made by the Komen Foundation to discontinue their partnership with the billion-dollar, abortion mega-provider, Planned Parenthood," said Americans for Life President and CEO Dr. Charmaine Yoest.
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, meanwhile, accused Komen of "succumbing to political pressure."
Brinker explained that the foundation would favor institutions and clinics that provide mammograms over those clinics and institutions that simply provide referrals to gynecologists. Planned Parenthood clinics provide breast health education and screenings but do not offer mammograms, only referrals for them.
Within two days, the pushback from several Congressional Democrats and abortion supporters was so strong that Komen announced they were reversing their decision, even going so far as to issue a public apology for their initial announcement.
Brinker released a statement that read in part:
"We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women's lives. The events of this week have been deeply unsettling for our supporters, partners and friends and all of us at Susan G. Komen."
From that point forward, Komen's fundraising suffered as it alienated people on both sides of the debate. The number of people who participated in the Komen races held across the country began to decline.
The first round of resignations began soon after Karen Handel, a former gubernatorial candidate in Georgia, announced she was stepping down and accused Planned Parenthood of orchestrating a premeditated attack on Komen.