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A high-ranking official resigned Tuesday from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast-cancer charity after a dispute over whether the group should give funding to Planned Parenthood, according to a letter obtained by The Associated Press.
Karen Handel, the charity’s vice president for public policy, told Komen officials that she supported the move to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. She said the discussion started before she arrived at the organization and was approved at the highest levels of the charity.
“I am deeply disappointed by the gross mischaracterizations of the strategy, its rationale, and my involvement in it,” Handel said in her 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.”
Handel said in the letter that the now-abandoned policy was fully vetted by the Komen organization. Its board did not raise any objections when it was presented with the proposed policy in November, Handel said.
Handel had supported a decision that Komen announced last week to exclude Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest provider of abortions, from future grants for breast-cancer screenings because it was under government investigation. The charity cited a probe launched by a Florida congressman.
The breast cancer charity furiously backpedaled from its decision after it created a three-day 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, has denied this charge.
According to Life News, Komen released a statement from founder Susan Brinker accepting Handel’s resignation, saying, “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.”
“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,” Brinker writes. “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,” Brinker added, “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.”
Until Tuesday, Handel had publicly kept silent about her role in the dispute.
In her resignation letter, Handel said the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood was long a concern to Komen officials.
However, anonymous sources claim that the “staunchly anti-abortion vice president for public policy” was “the main force behind the decision to defund Planned Parenthood and the attempt to make that decision look nonpolitical,” according to the Huffington Post.
“Karen Handel was the prime instigator of this effort, and she herself personally came up with investigation criteria,” a source, who requested anonymity for professional reasons, told the HuffPo. “She said, ‘If we just say it’s about investigations, we can defund Planned Parenthood and no one can blame us for being political.’”
Brinker, in an interview with MSNBC last week, 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, Handel emphasized her postion on abortion.
“I am staunchly and unequivocally pro-life. I believe in the sanctity and inherent dignity of human life, and I will be a pro-life governor who will work tirelessly to promote a culture of life in Georgia,” Handel said while campaigning in 2010.
“I believe that each and every unborn child has inherent dignity, that every abortion is a tragedy, and that government has a role, along with the faith community, in encouraging women to choose life in even the most difficult of circumstances…. since I am pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood.”
Update — Watch Karen Handel address the Komen fallout via Fox News Insider:
The Associated Press contributed to this report.