Charity backtracks on cuts to Planned Parenthood funding

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 09 February 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e987
  1. Bob Roehr
  1. 1Washington, DC

In the face of a public outcry, one of the largest cancer charities in the US, Susan G Komen for the Cure, has reversed its decision to stop giving grants for cancer screening of low income women through Planned Parenthood. The person at the centre of the controversy, vice president for policy Karen Handel, resigned on 7 February.

The issue exploded in the media and online in late January when it became known that Komen would be ending grants totalling about $700 000 (£440 000; €530 000), to 19 Planned Parenthood affiliates (BMJ 2012:344:e870, doi:10.1136/bmj.e870).

Komen first said it was because Planned Parenthood was under investigation for potential misuse of federal money for abortion services, but later said it was because it (Komen) had adopted a policy to fund only direct services, not referrals to other medical providers.

The original action, shifting justification, and reversal only fuelled charges by supporters of Planned Parenthood that the decision was driven by right wing anti-abortion politics.“Karen Handel was the prime instigator of this effort, and she herself personally came up with the investigation criteria,” an unnamed source within Komen told the Huffington Post. “Komen’s been dealing with the Planned Parenthood issue for years, and you know, some right wing groups would organise a protest or send out a mailing every now and again, but it was on a low simmer.

“What Karen’s been doing for the past six months is ratcheting up the issue with leadership. Every time someone would even mention a protest, she would magnify it, pump it up. Exaggerate it. She’s the one that kept driving this issue,” according to the source. (

The Dallas based Komen was founded and is run by Nancy Brinker who was a major fundraiser for former Texas governor and president George W Bush. The president appointed her ambassador to Hungary.

She hired Ms Handel in April 2011 after Ms Handel lost a bid for the republican nomination for governor of Georgia, in which the candidate advocated withdrawing state funds from Planned Parenthood.

Ms Handel defended herself in her letter of resignation, which she made available to the press but does not seem to be available on the Komen website.

“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,” including the board of directors, Ms Handel wrote. (

She declined a severance package. Accepting such financial considerations typically includes signing a non-disclosure clause that limits one’s ability to discuss the situation. Ms Handel was on Fox News that evening and observers anticipate she will continue to defend her position.


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e987

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