Can the Susan G. Komen Foundation Recover from its Planned Parenthood Missteps?

While Susan G. Komen Vice President Karen Handel's resignation may be intended to appease the millions of people upset over the charity's decision to defund Planned Parenthood -- and perhaps those offended by the decision's reversal as well -- it may be too little, too late to save the Komen Foundation's reputation. The group's poorly managed response to public outrage may have done more damage than the defunding decision itself.



"Please folk (sic), let's don't get it twisted. @KarenHandel resigning does not mean that Komen is trustworthy again. #NotAnotherPennyNotEverAgain" Amaditalks wrote on Twitter, a sentiment echoed by thousands of others.

Former Komen supporters are furious about conflicting statements given by the Komen Foundation's founder and CEO, Nancy Brinker. Though Brinker has repeatedly said that Handel "Did not have anything to do with this decision," Handel's resignation letter, which she posted on her newly created blog, KarenHandelKomen.com, states: "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."

"Komen's CEO, Nancy Brinker, has demonstrated a pattern of deliberately lying to the public about the facts about Komen's decision to defund PP," the Internet watchdog group Ultraviolet wrote in a statement to Yahoo! Shine.

Brinker acknowledged that the fallout has been intense in a statement accepting Handel's resignation. "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," she wrote. But that, and her surprising apology on Friday, may not be enough to persuade an angry public to put their pink ribbons back on.

The most immediate effect of the backlash against Komen may be felt in their fundraising. While Brinker said that donations jumped "100 percent" in the two days after their decision, Planned Parenthood has raised nearly $3 million -- more than enough to replace the $680,000 in grants that they received from the Komen foundation last year.

While the Komen Foundation has long come under fire by pro-life groups for its relationship with Planned Parenthood, in the past Brinker has defended funding the women's health organization. In her 2010 memoir, "Promise Me," she wrote about losing corporate sponsorship from Curves:


"The grants in question supplied breast health counseling, screening, and treatment to rural women, poor women, Native American women, many women of color who were underserved--if served at all--in areas where Planned Parenthood facilities were often the only infrastructure available," she wrote. "Though it meant losing corporate money from Curves, we were not about to turn our backs on these women."

But, in her resignation letter, Handel writes that the political controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood "has long been a concern to the organization" and that Komen needed to distance itself from that controversy. And in a Tweet written (and then deleted) just hours after the decision was made public on February 1, Handel underscored her personal feelings about the women's health organization, saying: "Just like pro-abortion group to turn cancer orgs decision into a political bomb to throw. Cry me a freaking river."

Supporters wonder how so much could have changed in such a short time -- and whether they can trust Komen in the future.

"It was clear that Karen Handel was willing to put her extremist political agenda ahead of women's lives," Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of the watchdog group Ultraviolet, said in a statement sent to Yahoo! Shine. "That was a big problem for Komen for the Cure's mission, so her resignation is definitely a positive sign for the organization."

"We will be watching closely to hold Komen accountable in the future, and will fight back fiercely and immediately should the organization pursue a backdoor strategy to defund Planned Parenthood," CREDO, Planned Parenthood's largest corporate sponsor, said in a statement.

Komen board member John D. Rafaelli, a Democratic lobbyist and a supporter of Planned Parenthood, told the Huffington Post that he should have anticipated the backlash.

"Honestly, I didn't think it through well enough," Rafaelli said. "We don't want to be pro-choice or pro-life; we want to be pro-cure. We screwed up, I'm saying it. We failed to keep abortion out of this, and we owe the people in the middle who only care about breast cancer and who have raised money for us an apology."

It's unlikely that an apology will be enough.

"If an institution claims to do something because of its values, then reverses itself so quickly... What values or principles do they have?" wrote member "sgordon23" on the Komen message boards. "They aren't for or against anything... they are about sucking up for dollars and keeping their plush jobs."

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Susan G. Komen and Panned Parenthood: Why the controversy will continue
Inside Susan G. Komen Foundation's decision to reverse Planned Parenthood funding
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