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Shakedown: Planned Parenthood's Attack on Komen

What Karen Handel wants to make clear is that she wasn't acting alone when she recommended the Susan G. Komen Foundation stop funding Planned Parenthood.



What Karen Handel wants to make perfectly clear is that she wasn't acting alone when she recommended that the Susan G. Komen Foundation stop funding Planned Parenthood. The organization's former vice president said Komen officials began reviewing their grant-making process long before she arrived last April. "I was tasked with identifying options to move our organization to neutral ground. And I did that," Handel said. "And that was with the full knowledge of the board, with the full knowledge of all the appropriate departments that needed to be involved in that." The organization's leaders determined it was a waste to give Planned Parenthood money for mammograms it wasn't performing and instead were only referring women to clinics where the procedures were performed. They also believed the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood's role as the nation's largest abortion provider was having an impact on Komen's image. "And why should Komen be in a place of being negatively affected by some other organization's controversies?" Handel asked. An Orchestrated Attack Handel said Komen President Elizabeth Thompson reached out to Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards in December to explain Komen's decision. According to Handel, Richards expressed disappointment about it but appeared to accept the decision. "Obviously, she was not happy. She was unhappy and disappointed. But there was, what I would call a 'gentle ladies' agreement, if you will, between the two organizations," Handel said. Watch the entire interview with former Komen executive Karen Handel about the Planned Parenthood campaign against her and the organization, below. "Komen's commitment was that we had no intention or desire to go out and be in the middle of the pro-life/pro-choice debate," she said. "That was not a place that we wanted to be. And the whole goal was to move to neutral ground." But neutral ground was hardly where the Komen Foundation ended up. "Planned Parenthood went... I mean if you look at the AP story... it's clear that Planned Parenthood proactively went to AP," Handel explained. "On top of that, what is even more disturbing, is the gross mischaracterization of the decision, the solid evidence that this was a premeditated, orchestrated attack on a breast cancer organization," she said. "And let's remember, Komen is a breast cancer organization, not involved in politics or this type of guerilla, grassroots campaigning that Planned Parenthood unleashed on us." "All for, not the sake of women's health, but for the sake of politics and a political agenda, which should make all of us very, very concerned," Handel added. "I mean this was nothing short of a shakedown, holding a private organization hostage for $680,000 in grants, which is less than a half of a percent of Planned Parenthood's total revenue," she said. Shocking Bias The backlash against Komen was immediate and devastating. The mainstream media and progressive bloggers went after Handel, portraying her as a conservative zealot who was trying to impose a pro-life agenda at Komen. The irony of being described as a radical pro-lifer was lost on Handel, who was at one point pegged as too moderate on abortion when she ran for governor of Georgia. "The irony of all of this doesn't escape me. In the governor's race, I was considered not pro-life enough because I do believe that there should be exceptions for rape and incest," she said. But the media didn't report that. Nor did they pay much attention to Komen's founder, Nancy Brinker, as she tried to conduct damage control. Within three days, Komen reversed its decision to stop funding the abortion provider and Handel resigned. For Handel, the media's bias on abortion was shocking. "To watch what played out and somehow an organization like Planned Parenthood to be held up as the face of the women's movement was stunning to me," Handel said. "And there's clearly a real bias around this that somehow a right to an abortion equals women's rights and I reject that." "It is outrageous. It is absolutely outrageous," she said. "And if anything can come out of this, what I hope is that maybe while Planned Parenthood felt a little bump in its fundraising over the past two weeks, that is going to give other entities serious pause before they engage with this group." Starting Somewhere Handel refused Komen's severance pay so she can continue speaking out about the controversy. "For whatever reason God led me to this place and so I have great faith and confidence that He then will also lead me through it so, when all is said and done, I'll be just fine," she said. Handel said this controversy was never primarily about the abortion issue. In fact, she said she's never been comfortable talking about abortion. But she's keenly aware that she keeps being brought back to the issue. "I keep being brought back to this debate for what reason, I don't know. But, if out of all of this, we can at least begin to acknowledge that we know that there is a fetal pain; we know this from science. It tells us this. And do we not have a moral obligation to at least address that?" she asked. "If we can't address the whole big issue, let's at least start somewhere," she said. "Let's start somewhere."


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