As okie mentioned in a comment on Part Two, Karen Handel resigned from Komen yesterday.
This was the statement issued at the time:
Statement from Susan G. Komen Founder and CEO Nancy G. Brinker
“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.
“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, 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.
“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.”
I hope that Nancy realizes that this is not going to quiet the firestorm, especially since Handel lashed out at dissenters in both her letter of resignation
“I am deeply disappointed by the gross mischaracterizations of the strategy, its rationale, and my involvement in it,” Handel’s resignation letter read. “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.”
and in at least one interview she gave afterwards
Handel first denied that the decision had been in any way related to the political controversy, and was quick to blame Planned Parenthood for politicizing the debate.
“The mission was always foremost in everyone’s mind: the mission and the women that we serve,” Handel said. “The only group that has made this issue political has been Planned Parenthood.”
But when asked later about her role in the decision, Handel appeared to admit that the group had long been under pressure from anti-abortion advocates.
“It’s no secret that Komen and other organizations that were funding Planned Parenthood had been under pressure for some years, long before my time,” Handel said, later adding, “Komen was doing its level best to move to neutral ground — and I will say, I was asked to look at options for doing that.”
“I’m saying that this was long an issue for Komen, dealing with the controversies of Planned Parenthood,” she responded.
In addition, our Affiliate’s Executive Director wrote an opinion piece that was scheduled to be published in our local newspaper today (don’t know if it made it in yet as I haven’t seen the paper):
Susan G. Komen for the Cure found itself caught in a media storm this week. In short, a decision made by the head office regarding Planned Parenthood’s eligibility for grant funding was reversed.
Across the country, Komen affiliates felt the fallout. The Salt Lake City office received calls, Facebook posts and emails. Most expressed outrage at Komen’s move to pull funding from Planned Parenthood. When the decision was reversed, we had some angry feedback then too. Meanwhile, it was clear that many of the comments came from people who had little or no idea of what we do, who we are, or how we spend our money. So let me take the opportunity to clarify what Komen represents here in Utah.
First, we are small. We have two full-time and one part-time paid staff. But, with a corps of passionate volunteers, we raise a lot of money, thanks mainly to the 16,000 or more people who join us every year in the Komen Salt Lake City Race for the Cure.
Second, 75 percent of our net funds stay in our local community. We granted $735,000 in 2011 to Utah nonprofits. We fund mammograms performed by Intermountain Healthcare for the uninsured or underinsured. And we support breast health education and other programs, like a van service organized by a small group in Price to ensure that women can travel safely (and free of charge) to Provo for mammography, chemo, or radiation. Our grantees are listed on our local web site, www.komenslc.org. They also include groups that serve minority populations. One of our goals is to increase the mammography rate. Utah ranks second to lowest in the entire nation for screening. We want to change that ranking.
Third, 25 percent of our funds go to Komen headquarters–not for overhead, but for research projects selected at the national level to avoid duplication and ensure impact. Frequently, the funds that we send to Komen HQ for research come back to Utah. For example, Huntsman Cancer Institute is currently working on a project to learn how to isolate breast tumors and prevent them from spreading because that’s when cancer may lead to death. This research is occurring thanks to a $180,000 Komen national grant.
Many women are alive today because of Komen funding. Twenty five years ago, the five-year survival rate for a woman diagnosed with breast cancer (when detected early) was 75 percent. Now it’s 98 percent. Progress is being made. That said, breast cancer remains a serious, life-threatening disease that affects one in eight women.
Regarding Planned Parenthood: Have we given them money in the past? Yes. Will we continue to do so? Yes, if their request is related to breast health, and if our independent panel of reviewers decide that their proposal is a priority, given other requests and funds available. Some may still feel that the very fact that we provide funds of any kind to Planned Parenthood constitutes tacit endorsement of their organization. It is not an endorsement of any kind. It is simply a response to a need in this community for breast health information or services.
In summary, the REAL Komen, the Komen that I know, respect and support, is the Komen in your backyard.
We continue to hope for a great turnout at the Race for the Cure this year as fellow Utahns show their trust and belief in us, and join us in the war against breast cancer.
Debbie Mintowt, Executive Director, Salt Lake City Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure
Over the weekend I heard from our Board’s President that all of the Affiliates that were on that particular conference call with Nancy Brinker and HQ staff flat-out stated that Karen Handel had to go, and at that time Nancy didn’t want to do that. . . so something happened between Saturday and yesterday. Sooner or later I imagine I’ll hear what it was. Although I have always known that she is a Republican and a
conservative Christian religiously conservative woman, up until now Nancy Brinker kept politics out of the Komen brand. I don’t think that we’ll ever shove that genie back in to bottle, so from here on out we’re going to have to be hypervigilant about sponsors, grantees, honorary chairs–everything that is the public face of Komen, and that’s a shame, because both Komen and Planned Parenthood do good work.
Part four is in the works: women’s health, Planned Parenthood, and Komen. I see that part two is up around 180 comments now. If nothing else, I seem to be able to write posts that spark a lot of discussion.
EDIT: Both Mark and Karla pointed out that Nancy Brinker is possibly Jewish rather than Christian; I don’t know why I’d always been led to believe that she’s Christian, but after looking into it I can’t find a citation one way or the other, so I edited it above. I know from meeting her at Komen events and public information that she is a conservative and religious woman (who I admire greatly), so I’ve decided to go with those two descriptors.