The Susan G. Komen Foundation executive who was behind the breast cancer charity's decision to defund Planned Parenthood's breast cancer-prevention programs has stepped down today. Karen Handel, Komen's VP for public policy, wrote in her resignation letter, "I am deeply disappointed by the gross mischaracterizations of the strategy, its rationale, and my involvement in it. 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."

Her letter (you can read the whole thing below) continues, "However, 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. Neither the decision nor the changes themselves were based on anyone’s political beliefs or ideology. Rather, both were based on Komen’s mission and how to better serve women, as well as a realization of the need to distance Komen from controversy. 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."

Komen had told Planned Parenthood that it would no longer fund 19 affiliates' various breast cancer-prevention programs because of a House investigation into Planned Parenthood's finances. (Planned Parenthood received $680,000 from Komen last year and $580,000 in 2010.) The investigation, though, is led by Congressman Cliff Stearns, a pro-life Republican, and many critics felt that Komen was taking the opportunity to appeal to its pro-life supporters and management, including Handel whose 2010 Georgia gubernatorial campaign platform included the statement "First, let me be clear, since I am pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood."

After many Komen supporters expressed their unhappiness with the charity's decision to defund Planned Parenthood, Komen reversed itself and said it would continue to fund the program.

While Handel tries to claim that Komen's decision to "update our granting model" was in place before she joined, she was considered by many sources to be the main force behind the defunding decision.

February 7, 2012

The Honorable Nancy Brinker

CEO, Susan G. Komen for the Cure VIA EMAIL

5005 LBJ Freeway, Suite 250

Dallas, Texas 75244

Dear Ambassador Brinker:

Susan G. Komen for the Cure has been the recognized leader for more 30 years in the fight against breast cancer here in the US - and increasingly around the world.

As you know, I have always kept Komen’s mission and the women we serve as my highest priority - as they have been for the entire organization, the Komen Affiliates, our many supporters and donors, and the entire community of breast cancer survivors. I have carried out my responsibilities faithfully and in line with the Board’s objectives and the direction provided by you and Liz.

We can all agree that this is a challenging and deeply unsettling situation for all involved in the fight against breast cancer. However, 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. At the November Board meeting, the Board received a detailed review of the new model and related criteria. As you will recall, the Board specifically discussed various issues, including the need to protect our mission by ensuring we were not distracted or negatively affected by any other organization’s real or perceived challenges. No objections were made to moving forward.

I am deeply disappointed by the gross mischaracterizations of the strategy, its rationale, and my involvement in it. 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. However, 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. Neither the decision nor the changes themselves were based on anyone’s political beliefs or ideology. Rather, both were based on Komen’s mission and how to better serve women, as well as a realization of the need to distance Komen from controversy. 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.

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.

Just as Komen’s best interests and the fight against breast cancer have always been foremost in every aspect of my work, so too are these my priorities in coming to the decision to resign effective immediately. While I appreciate your raising a possible severance package, I respectfully decline. It is my most sincere hope that Komen is allowed to now refocus its attention and energies on its mission.

Sincerely,