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Top Executives Quit Komen After Planned Parenthood Controversy

There have been several high-profile resignations from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure amid calls for the group's founder and chief executive to resign, media reports say.

The Associated Press is reporting that at least five top officials quit the Dallas-based organization after it took a decision — since reversed — to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides reproductive health care, including breast cancer screening, contraceptives and abortions. The departures include three executives in Dallas, "as well as CEOs of affiliate groups in Oregon and New York City," according to the AP.

According to The New York Times, "in the year ended March 31, 2011, Komen raised about $420 million in cash and in-kind donations."

An online petition calling for the resignation of Nancy Brinker, Komen's founder and chief executive, has more than 1,000 supporters. But in a statement to The Times on Wednesday, the group's board said it fully supported Brinker.

Some of the Komen executives cited personal reasons for their departures, but Leslie Aun, a spokeswoman for the group, acknowledged to the AP that the controversy had upset many supporters.

The controversy was sparked earlier this year when Komen announced it was ending its partnership with Planned Parenthood affiliates. The affiliates received $680,000 last year for breast cancer screening and other breast health services.

As NPR's Scott Neuman reported at the time, Komen said "it was forced to make the move by a new policy that prevents it from giving grant money to groups that are under investigation.

"In this case, the focus is a congressional inquiry launched last fall by Florida Republican Cliff Stearns, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Investigative Subcommittee. He is looking into whether Planned Parenthood is using federal money to fund abortions," Neuman wrote at the time.

But Planned Parenthood and its allies said Komen was caving to the demands of anti-abortion-rights groups. Komen eventually reversed its decision, and the controversy led to the resignation of Karen Handel, the group's senior vice president for policy, who had been criticized over the issue.

But as The New York Times reported Wednesday:

"The controversy, stoked by heated comments on social media sites like Twitter, has turned off some longtime supporters, resulting in reduced fund-raising at some affiliates."

Daniel Borochoff, the president of CharityWatch, a nonprofit organization that rates charities, told the Times: "You hate to see the organization slowly bleed away its staffing and its talent. ... They may very well need to get a new board and a new chief executive."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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