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Ex-Komen Board Member: Planned Parenthood Reversal Is Not Enough -- Brinker and Board Must Go

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Eve Ellis, the former board member of Komen NYC who last week urged progressives to stay "far away" from Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is not ready to put the Planned Parenthood fiasco behind her. In a letter (reprinted below) to friends (of which I am one) and copied to the CEO and board chairs of the Komen NYC, Ellis wrote that she does not trust the leadership of the organization and will not support it until it "clean[s] house."

Specifically, Ellis called for three housecleaning measures. She demanded that CEO and Founder Ambassador Nancy Komen Brinker resign, that VP of Public Policy Karen Handel be terminated, and that the entire nine-member board, which includes Brinker and her son, be replaced.

UPDATE: February 7, 2012, 10:41 A.M. - Karen Handel resigns from the post of VP of Public Policy at Susan G. Komen for the Cure, refusing a severance package that would compel her to remain silent.

Ellis wrote the letter in response to friends asking whether the organization can be trusted now that it has reversed its decision. Writing "It's not enough," she went on to explain that she does not believe Brinker or the board when they say the decision to defund Planned Parenthood was not political. Noting the clash of Texas politicians, Ellis pointed out that the fiasco pitted Brinker, an a major Dallas-based Republican fundraiser and former ambassador under President George W. Bush, against Planned Parenthood's chief, Cecile Richards, daughter of Bush family opponent, Texas Governor Ann Richards. She also wrote than she found Brinker's Friday apology "hollow" noting that it contained no commitment to renew Planned Parenthood grants and "no specific apology to the low-income women who would have become the collateral damage from the defunding."

Ellis is A philanthropy and wealth advisor who currently sits on the board of the Ms. Foundation for Women, which last week issued a matching grant for donations to Planned Parenthood in response to the Komen decision.

(Eve Ellis's email letter, reprinted with permission)

Dear Friends and Family:

As you know, Komen has been a major charity for my family and me for the last decade. I served on Komen NYC's Board for 6 years. Thanks to donations from friends and family, my spouse and I have raised over $250,000 over the last 6 years for Komen NYC. For the past 4 years, Komen NYC has given an award annually in memory of our niece, Hally. Every year, the New York Race for the Cure, the brunch we hold after the walk, and our aggressive fund-raising for Komen renew our commitment to fight this stubborn disease.

We are not alone in being part of the Komen team. All across the nation, even the world, Komen has galvanized this fight and has been the dominant activist force publicizing this disease.

Komen is the #1 breast cancer organization by a long shot. It has funded more breast cancer research than any other and provided more care/screening for under-served women than any other organization. Most importantly, it has been a publicity machine, creating and harnessing public involvement, attention and participation in the fight against this disease. No other organization has the infrastructure to have that reach. It would take years for any other group to ramp up to meet the many needs that Komen fills.

So when I read Nancy Brinker's statement on Friday reversing Komen's decision about funding Planned Parenthood, it mattered that I felt continued disappointment. Can I trust Komen again? Many of you have asked me.

Brinker's words struck me as vague and hollow--no future commitment to Planned Parenthood and no specific apology to the low-income women who would have become the collateral damage from the defunding.

I also don't believe Brinker and her board when she claims that Komen's decision wasn't political.

Nancy Brinker was a George W. Bush Ambassador appointee and is a Bush family friend. Is it just coincidence that the head of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, is the daughter of that feisty progressive nemesis of the Bush family, the late Governor of Texas, Ann Richards?

Take some truth serum, Nancy Brinker, I found myself thinking.

If I needed further proof that this was a politically motivated action, the Washington Post reported yesterday that Brinker told affiliates (Komen NYC, for instance, is an affiliate) that they would be getting help on crisis communications by Ari Fleischer, former White House Press secretary in the Bush Administration. How did the Komen action originate? Is women's health a political game, Nancy Brinker?

But then I realized that I don't actually need Nancy Brinker to admit that the decision to defund Planned Parenthood was political in order for me to rejoin the Komen team. We need her to resign.

Then I and the millions of people who have walked and talked for Komen can trust again.

Komen's reversal is a step in the right direction.

But there needs to be more.

Komen needs to clean house.

  1. Again, Nancy Brinker needs to resign.
  2. Karen Handel needs to be terminated.
  3. The Board needs to be replaced.

A clean house would enable Komen to carry on its much-needed, admirable work without the baggage of being the organization that had actually deliberated on and subsequently made the heartless decision to defund Planned Parenthood and to endanger the heath of thousands of women. When we have a clean house, we should get answers to how this happened, and a clear refocus that Komen stands for all women's health.

Each person needs to do what feels right for herself or himself. I was glad to receive some emails after the reversal applauding the decision as though all was forgiven and, I wondered, perhaps even soon to be forgotten.

My breast cancer survivor friend, Joan, rejoiced, "Yippee! They heard us! Now I can wear my survivor's tee shirt again!!!!"

I am truly happy for Joan as I remember how elated she was when we walked together in this past year's Race--her first ever.

For me, though, it's not enough.

In continued sadness and still in fighting spirit,

Eve