Criticizing major players on both sides, Karen Handel, former Susan G. Komen for the Cure vice president, has written a blistering insider’s account of the prominent cancer charity’s decision to halt grants to Planned Parenthood and its swift retreat in the face of an intense, widespread backlash.
Titled Planned Bullyhood and due for publication Tuesday, the book depicts Planned Parenthood as an aggressive, partisan organization that was willing to weaken Komen to further a liberal political agenda. However, Handel – a conservative who resigned from Komen after its reversal – also assails Komen’s leadership as indecisive, timid and politically naive, and says the hasty decision to backtrack was “a terrible mistake.”
Handel was hired by Komen as vice president for public policy in April 2011 after losing a Republican gubernatorial primary in Georgia, and was given the task of figuring out how to disengage Komen from Planned Parenthood. The grants from Komen were for breast-cancer education and screening, but the charity was under increasing pressure from anti-abortion groups and religious conservatives to cut all ties with Planned Parenthood because, in addition to its other services, it is the nation’s leading provider of abortion.
Late in 2011, Komen made a final decision to halt the grants, which totaled $680,000 that year, and its president, Liz Thompson, informed Planned Parenthood’s president, Cecile Richards, of the decision in mid-December. However, the rift did not become public knowledge until Jan. 31, when the Associated Press broke the news….
A major complication, according to Handel’s book, was that Komen’s leaders struggled to pinpoint how they would publicly justify halting the grants to Planned Parenthood.
On one hand, the cancer charity sought to develop new criteria that would disqualify the Planned Parenthood grants on the grounds they were not cost-effective. Handel also determined that the grants could be suspended on grounds that Planned Parenthood was under investigation at the state and federal level, notably a probe launched by a conservative Republican congressman at the urging of anti-abortion groups.
During the three days after the grant cutoff was reported, Komen was inconsistent in efforts to explain its move – citing the investigation angle initially, the granting criteria at later points, and, in Handel’s view, damaging itself with changing messages.
Handel says a session held that morning to prepare Brinker was “complete pandemonium,” and the Komen CEO headed to the interview “dazed and unsure.”
Handel’s book is being published by Howard Books, a division of Simon and Schuster with a focus on evangelical Christian themes.
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