Komen Exec Quits in Wake of Grant Controversy

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NEW YORK CITY — The high-ranking executive at the center of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure – Planned Parenthood funding controversy has stepped down.

Karen Handel, the vice-president for Public Policy at the breast cancer charity, announced her resignation in a letter dated on Tuesday. Her resignation comes a week after the charity announced that it would be cutting grants to Planned Parenthood because the organization was under government investigation, citing a probe from a conservative Florida representative who launched the investigation at the urging of anti-abortion groups.

In her resignation letter, Handel, a Republican who unsuccessfully ran for Governor of Georgia in 2010 on an anti-abortion platform, claimed that the decision to cut grants to Planned Parenthood were not “based on anyone’s political beliefs or ideology.”

“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,” said Handel in the letter, further saying that the strategy regarding the change in granting strategy was “fully vetted” by every level in the organization.

“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,” said Handel.

According to an Associated Press report, a person with inside knowledge of the situation says that the decision to change how grants were made was part of a deliberate strategy to target Planned Parenthood, and that Handel was a driving force in that decision.

In a television interview last week, Komen CEO Nancy Brinker claimed that Handel did not have a significant role in the policy change.

The move by Komen to cut funds for Planned Parenthood set off a firestorm of controversy on both sides of the abortion issue, as the group has faces a backlash from some women’s groups and potential donors. In the same period, Planned Parenthood has seen their donations skyrocket, with over $3 million in new donations in just one week following the announcement.

Funding from Komen to Planned Parenthood paid for breast cancer screening programs. Planned Parenthood officials say that the funding was not used to pay for abortions.

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