Breaking News: Komen VP Resigns Over Planned Parenthood Scandal

A top executive with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast-cancer charity has announced her resignation today as vice president for public policy after she supported cutting off funding for Planned Parenthood.

Karen Handel announced her resignation in a letter to Komen officials Tuesday. See her letter here.

Komen made the right decision to fire Handel, who had clear ties to the decision-making process, and should now reevaluate its entire administration, many of whom have ties to pro-life platforms and the religious right.

Komen must showcase its commitment to low-income women by maintaining funding for Planned Parenthood beyond this year, which according to MoveOn.Org, it will not do.

The Komen Foundation’s recent decision to defund and then refund Planned Parenthood sparked massive backlash from people everywhere, notably women using social media.

Though Komen backtracked and agreed to maintain its funding, the organization’s image has been tarnished and still faces immense suspicion. The foundation will have a long recovery process in order to clean up the mess it started, regain its supporters and credibility, and prove to people that it is an organization that is actually apolitical.

The most troubling issue with Komen’s original decision was how politicized it was, causing supporters to question why a charity was involving itself in the nasty game of politics.

Though Komen has been criticized in the past for its corporate-like nature and spending $1 million suing other organizations for using “for the cure,” Komen still maintained an active base that believed Komen was committed to its original mission of helping all women. 

This time however, bowing to pressure from special interest groups, lawmakers, and anti-abortion groups, Komen crossed the line.

Komen, which started off as a pro-women organization that provided essential cancer services to all women decided to deviate, following the political leanings of many of its top executives and financial donors. This change is what angered people.

It’s one thing if Komen had decided from the start that it wouldn’t support Planned Parenthood: it’s the company’s choice and its supporters knew. However, it’s completely different when Komen funds Planned Parenthood for five years with a large monetary grant, and then chooses to retract its support under a new rule that, currently, only makes Planned Parenthood ineligible to receive funds. Clearly, something’s amiss if the mission of the Komen Foundation is still the same and only the executives and donors of the organization have changed. Thankfully, Komen failed to politicize women’s health, evident from the vocal outcry it received through social media, notably Facebook and Twitter.

Komen, which has already lost the support of many of its ardent supporters, including prominent lawmakers such as Jackie Spier (D-Calif.) and Mike Honda (D-Calif.), needs to prove to everyone that the choices it makes support its mission and that it doesn’t give into outside influence when convenient.

Although the Komen Foundation released a statement clarifying that it changed its rules to only exclude organizations that are involved in investigations that are criminal and political in nature, it has not done nearly enough to restore its image and regain the people’s trust.

Additionally, by maintaining its funds to Planned Parenthood, the foundation angered those who originally supported its original stance. Komen faces a tough road ahead, trying to placate supporters who defended its original stance against Planned Parenthood, trying to win back supporters who detracted after its decision, and trying to convince the rest of the world, that it is in fact, apolitical and still deeply committed to helping women everywhere.

The massive outcry over Komen’s decision makes one thing very clear: Women’s health, and health in general, should not be political matters -- a principle that Komen needs to demonstrate in order to win back much of the support it has lost in the face of this controversy. 

The worst part of this whole fiasco is that it forces Komen to divert its resources and its attention from its mission to fixing this political crisis. The biggest loser in this situation however, is not Komen, it’s all those women affected.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Avantika Krishna

Avantika, a graduating Trinity University, is Studying Political Science and Human Communication. A feminist, a human rights activist, and an advocate for youth activism in politics and social issues, Avantika contributes her time to various initiatives around her community and university. Follow her on Twitter @itsavantika and reach out to her for any opportunities (or really anything else!).

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