Komen VP Quits Over Planned Parenthood Dispute
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ATLANTA (CBSMiami/AP) – The vice president of public policy for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast-cancer charity has resigned in the wake of a dispute over whether the group should give funding to Planned Parenthood.
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Karen Handel had supported a decision that Komen announced last week to exclude Planned Parenthood, which provides a range of women’s health care services including abortions, from future grants for breast-cancer screenings because it was under government investigation. The charity cited a probe launched by a Florida congressman at the urging of anti-abortion groups.
Three days later the breast cancer charity reversed course after a firestorm of criticism.
Members of Congress and Komen affiliates accused the group’s national leadership of bending to pressure from anti-abortion activists. Komen’s founder and CEO, Nancy Brinker, denied the decision was driven by pressure from anti-abortion groups.
Until Tuesday, Handel had publicly kept silent about her role in the dispute.
“I am deeply disappointed by the gross mischaracterizations of the strategy, its rationale, and my involvement in it,” Handel said in a letter. “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.”
A source with direct knowledge of decision-making at Komen’s headquarters in Dallas said the grant-making criteria were adopted with the deliberate intention of targeting Planned Parenthood.
The criteria’s impact on Planned Parenthood and its status as the focus of government investigations were highlighted in a memo distributed to Komen affiliates in December.
According to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions, a driving force behind the move was Handel, who was hired by Komen last year as vice president for public policy after losing a campaign for governor in Georgia in which she stressed her anti-abortion views and frequently denounced Planned Parenthood.
Brinker, in an interview with MSNBC, said Handel didn’t have a significant role in the policy change.
Handel, a Republican, ran for Georgia governor in 2010, winning an endorsement from former vice presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Handel then lost a primary runoff to former Georgia Congressman Nathan Deal, who won the general election.
Throughout the campaign, Deal accused Handel of being soft on abortion.
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