* Anti-abortion Komen executive Handel resigns
* Says Planned Parenthood decision mischaracterized
By David Morgan
WASHINGTON, Feb 7 A senior executive of
breast cancer charity Susan G. Komen for the Cure resigned on
Tuesday, a week after the group became the target of a public
furor for cutting funding to women's health organization,
Karen Handel, a Republican who once ran for governor of
Georgia on a platform calling for the defunding of Planned
Parenthood, stepped down from her role as the charity's senior
vice president for public policy and chief lobbyist, the
organization said on Tuesday.
"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," Komen founder Nancy Brinker
said in a statement. "I wish her the best in future endeavors."
Planned Parenthood, a leading provider of birth control,
abortion and other women's health services, had no comment.
Komen's move last week caused an uproar among supporters who
also back Planned Parenthood. Komen reversed the decision on
Many had accused Komen of initially bowing to political
pressure from anti-abortion groups who want to cut off all funds
to Planned Parenthood. The charity says it had been guided by a
new policy to avoid funding organizations under investigation by
In a Fox News interview, Handel charged Planned Parenthood
with using "vicious attacks" and "coercion" to prevent Komen
from setting its own standards. "It's outrageous," said Handel,
whose appointment to Komen's leadership last April raised the
hackles of pro-abortion activists.
"I resigned because it was clear that all of this had gotten
to a point where ... I was too much of a focal point," Handel
added. "I really felt I had a responsibility to step aside so
they could refocus on their mission."
In her resignation letter to Brinker, Handel acknowledged
her role in developing the strategy but denied it was based on
political ideology, saying: "Our decision was the best one for
Komen's future and the women we serve."
Komen insiders say Handel spent months pushing the plan to
shift the organization's grant strategy, leading the board to
decide to cut off funding for 17 of the 19 Planned Parenthood
affiliates in December.
PUBLIC RELATIONS DISASTER
Her departure stirred regret among anti-abortion activists,
who blamed the latest development on the news media and Planned
"The events of the last week show just how ruthless the
abortion industry will be to anyone who is perceived as not
supporting their agenda," said Kristi Hamrick, a spokeswoman for
the anti-abortion group, Americans United for Life.
Abortion advocates said Handel's departure appeared to be a
short-term effort to staunch a public relations disaster and was
unlikely to dispel lingering doubts about the organization given
Komen's ties with other high-profile political conservatives.
Over the weekend, Komen said Republican President George W.
Bush's former White House spokesman, Ari Fleischer, is working
for the charity as a communications consultant. Jane Abraham,
general chair of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, also
serves as a board director for Komen's advocacy arm.
Handel's departure is "a step in the right direction. But
it's not clear to me that they've really changed their policy,"
said Jodi Jacobson, whose blog RHRealityCheck.org is widely
followed by women's reproductive rights advocates.
The overall negative tone of Twitter messages about Komen
showed no sign of improving, according to the Pew Research
Center. Days after the charity reversed course, Pew said the
share of critical Twitter traffic was unchanged at 64 percent.
Some of Planned Parenthood's allies sought to keep the
controversy alive. MoveOn.org, CREDO and UltraViolet marked
Handel's fate with a small protest outside Komen headquarters in
Dallas, where demonstrators said they wanted to encourage the
charity to continue funding Planned Parenthood.
The progressive activist group, CREDO, and UltraViolet, an
online community opposed to sexism, claimed credit for a joint
petition campaign that collected tens of thousands of signatures
calling for Handel's resignation.
Planned Parenthood receives about $700,000 a year in Komen
donations for breast cancer exams and mammography referrals for
But it ran into trouble with the altered Komen strategy
because Planned Parenthood is the subject of an investigation by
Republican Representative Cliff Stearns, who hopes to determine
whether federal tax money funds Planned Parenthood abortions.
Brinker, who founded Komen in 1982 to honor her sister
Susan, who died of breast cancer, cast the controversy as a
"We have made mistakes," she said on Tuesday. "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."