Karen Handel, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure official who has been widely blamed for the Planned Parenthood fiasco, resigned Tuesday, signaling that the fallout from the defunding controversy is far from over.
Handel’s resignation seemed inevitable to most observers after the group reversed its decision last week to cut off grants to Planned Parenthood. Handel, a Republican, joined the organization after an unsuccessful run for governor of Georgia on a platform that included defunding Planned Parenthood.
On Tuesday, Handel gave into pressure from activists who blamed her for the decision — but said she was “deeply disappointed by the gross mischaracterizations” of the charity’s change in its funding strategy that resulted in the Planned Parenthood cutoff.
In her resignation letter, posted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Handel writes, "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 ... What was a thoughtful and thoroughly reviewed decision [to sever ties with Planned Parenthood] — one that would have indeed enabled Komen to deliver even greater community impact — has unfortunately been turned into something about politics."
Handel argues that Komen should have stuck with the decision to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood because it was a well-vetted decision made by the organization's leadership, and adds that it was in the works before she joined the organization.
"The decision to update our granting model was made before I joined Komen, and the controversy related to Planned Parenthood has long been a concern to the organization," she wrote. "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."
In the letter, Handel declines any severance package and expresses her "most sincere hope that Komen is allowed to now refocus its attention and energies on its mission."
In a statement, Nancy Brinker, Susan G. Komen’s founder and CEO, said she had accepted Handel’s resignation and acknowledged that the charity had made “mistakes” in the controversy.
“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,” Brinker said in the statement. “To do this effectively, 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.”
The reaction from anti-abortion groups was fast and furious. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, told reporters on a conference call that “Planned Parenthood campaigns to destroy anyone who questions them” and that “their attitude is that of an immature teenager with an enormous sense of entitlement.”
“This is just more proof that Planned Parenthood will pulverize anyone who dares to question them,” Dannenfelser said.