Komen VP Karen Handel Abruptly Quits Over Planned Parenthood Funding Reversal

Karen Handel, vice president for public policy at the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, resigned on Tuesday following the organization's latest decision to continue funding Planned Parenthood.

In a copy of the resignation letter, which was obtained by The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Handel insists that politics played no role in the breast cancer charity's decisions surrounding grants to Planned Parenthood.

"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," Handel wrote.

"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."

The Komen foundation sparked a national debate last week when it announced that it adopted new grant criteria barring funding to organizations that are under investigation by local, state or federal authorities. Planned Parenthood is currently the focus of a congressional investigation for possible misuse of taxpayer funds.

The foundation also sought to favor institutions and clinics that provide mammograms over those clinics and institutions (such as Planned Parenthood) that simply provide referrals to gynecologists.

Amid uproar and accusations from abortion advocates of bowing to conservative political pressure, the cancer foundation said it would amend its policy to disqualify groups that are under investigations that are "criminal and conclusive in nature," thus allowing Planned Parenthood to still be eligible for future grants.

Handel has been accused by several former employees of pushing the decision to sever ties with the abortion provider.

While acknowledging her role in the matter, she noted in her resignation letter that the cancer foundation had decided to update its granting criteria even before she came on board in January 2011.

"I am deeply disappointed by the gross mischaracterizations of the strategy, its rationale, and my involvement in it," she stated.

"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 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," she stressed. "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."

This is the first time that Handel has addressed Komen's decisions, and she is expected to speak publicly late Tuesday in Atlanta.

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