ATLANTA — The vice president of public policy at Susan G. Komen for the Cure who backed the breast cancer charity's move to strip Planned Parenthood of funding resigned Tuesday, saying the now-abandoned decision "has unfortunately been turned into something about politics."
Karen Handel supported a decision Komen announced last week to exclude Planned Parenthood, which provides a range of women's health care services including abortions, from future grants for breast cancer screenings because it was under congressional investigation.
The charity reversed course after its decision created a three-day firestorm of criticism. Members of Congress and Komen affiliates accused the group's national leadership of bending to pressure from pro-life activists.
"Neither the decision nor the changes themselves were based on anyone's political beliefs or ideology," Miss Handel said in her resignation letter. "Rather, both were based on Komen's mission and how to better serve women, as well as a realization of the need to distance Komen from controversy."
Miss Handel said the discussion had started before she arrived at the organization last year and was approved at the highest levels of the charity.
"I am deeply disappointed by the gross mischaracterizations of the strategy, its rationale, and my involvement in it," she said in her letter. "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 Founder and CEO Nancy Brinker said she accepted Miss 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," Miss Brinker said. "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."
Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Andrea Hagelgans declined to comment on the resignation.
Miss Handel said the now-abandoned policy was fully vetted by the Komen organization. Its board did not raise any objections when it was presented with the proposed policy in November, she said.
The breast cancer charity cited a probe backed by pro-life groups and launched by Rep. Cliff Stearns, Florida Republican, to determine if Planned Parenthood improperly spent public money on abortions. Planned Parenthood says taxpayer money is strictly separated.
Until Tuesday, Miss Handel had publicly kept silent about her role in the dispute.
"What was a thoughtful and thoroughly reviewed decision - one that would have indeed enabled Komen to deliver even greater community impact - has unfortunately been turned into something about politics," she said. "This is entirely untrue. This development should sadden us all greatly."
• AP writer David Crary contributed to this report.