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Six months after the Susan G. Komen Foundation decided it would stop funding Planned Parenthood — and then quickly reversed itself after angering people on both sides of the abortion debate —founder Nancy G. Brinker is stepping down as CEO of the breast cancer charity.
She will take on a new role focusing on fundraising, strategy, and company growth once a new CEO is in place, the company said in a statement late Wednesday.
"I was asked by the Board in 2009 to assume the CEO role," Brinker said. "Three years into that role, and 32 years after my promise to my sister to end breast cancer, I want now to focus on Susan G. Komen's global mission and raising resources to bring our promise to women all around the world."
Brinker's departure isn't the only top-level change. President Liz Thompson will be leaving the organization sometime in September to "pursue other opportunities," and board members Brenda Lauderback and Linda Law are also stepping down.
"It is truly unbelievable that Komen, a group that until this year had been considered America's sweetheart charity, has suffered such financial and personnel upheaval in the wake of making what ended up being a temporary decision to loose ties with the nation's largest abortion provider," Jeanne Monahan, director of the Center for Human Dignity at the conservative Christian Family Research Council, told Reuters. "Sadly, the greatest victims of this Planned Parenthood shakedown are women suffering from breast cancer.
There's no doubt that the company has been affected by its decision in February to defund, and then refund, Planned Parenthood. The original decision angered Komen supporters, who took to social media to point out that the breast cancer charity's grants, which totaled about $580,000 in 2010 and $680,000 in 2011, had been earmarked for breast-cancer screenings at the women's health clinics, not abortion or birth control services. Hundreds of thousands of people -- some of them from Komen's other affiliates -- publicly denounced the defunding and swore they'd stop donating to Komen.
Just three days later, Brinker announced that funding for Planned Parenthood would continue after all. She issued a public apology for the way her organization chose to allocate its funds, a move that outraged many of its pro-life supporters. Several high-ranking Komen officials, including Senior Vice President of Policy Karen Handle, who claimed responsibility for the defunding decision, resigned.
Still, the resignations and apologies were too little, too late -- the group's poor response to the public outcry may have done more damage than the flip-flopping on funding. Since then, participation in Komen's famous Race for the Cure 5K runs and walks has dropped by as much as 30 percent, according to USA Today. Donations have dwindled. The brand itself, famous for it's ubiquitous pink ribbon, has been tarnished.
"You hate to see the organization slowly bleed away its staffing and its talent," Daniel Borochoff, the president of CharityWatch, told The New York Times in March. "They may very well need to get a new board and a new chief executive."
Neither Thompson nor Brinker said that the moves were related to the Planned Parenthood controversy, though Thompson did say that Komen "is on an excellent path to recovery." When asked about Planned Parenthood, Komen spokeswoman Andrea Rader told the Associated Press that "I think Liz (Thompson) made clear in her statement that we feel that we've moved past that."
At least, the company seems determined to put the Planned Parenthood issue firmly behind them in order to focus on the future.
"Our mission is clear and consistent, and will never change, regardless of the controversy earlier this year," Brinker said. "We are doing everything in our power to ensure that women have access to quality cancer care and the support that they need, as we seek answers through cutting-edge research."
— Lylah M. Alphonse
Copyright © 2012 Yahoo Inc.
Also on Shine:
Susan G. Komen and Planned Parenthood: Why the Controversy Will Continue
Can the Susan G. Komen Foundation Recover From Its Planned Parenthood Missteps?
Former Susan G. Komen VP Karen Handel: Planned Parenthood "Hijacked This Great Organization"