Unless you are a resident of Georgia or followed the Komen/Planned Parenthood controversy closely, you may never have heard of Karen Handel. Get ready for that to change. Today, her book Planned Bullyhood will be released, and kids, it is a doozy.
Did you watch the news, listen to the radios, and read the blogs earlier this year for those 72 tense hours when the controversy was raging and think, “I wonder what’s really going on behind the scenes”?
Well, now you get to find out.
Writing with clarity, credibility, and humility, what Handel reveals about Planned Parenthood’s deceptiveness and manipulative, self-serving tactics will shock even those of you who are familiar with their antics.
Karen Handel was Georgia’s secretary of state and ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2010, at which point she went to work for Susan G. Komen For the Cure as senior vice president of public policy. By the time she joined Susan G. Komen, according to Handel, “for at least a decade, Komen had been considering whether to end funding to Planned Parenthood.”
One reason for this is obvious to anyone with half a brain: Planned Parenthood is a lightning rod for controversy. Whatever argument you may advance about the “health care” services they provide, it is an undisputed fact that they are the nation’s largest abortion provider. Because of Komen’s grants to Planned Parenthood, many – including yours truly – declined to donate money to the otherwise stellar breast cancer non-profit.
(The following happened many times at the Tom Thumb grocery store checkout. Cashier: Would you like to donate a dollar today for breast cancer research? Me: I’d love to. Is it Susan G. Komen? Cashier: Yes! Me: No thanks!)
So yes, one of the reasons Handel was hired was to help formulate a solution to the Planned Parenthood problem. Handel is a Republican, and most of the executives and other key personnel at Komen were Democrats; they referred to Handel as the “righty tighty.” But her “red cred” and intimate knowledge of state government and budgeting made for a good fit to liaise with the many conservative governors and congressmen swept in by the Tea Party tide in 2010.
Ironically, considering her portrayal in the media since the Komen controversy as a baby-saving zealot, part of what may have hurt Handel’s gubernatorial run was her not being pro-life enough. She believes that an exception should be made to abortion restriction in the cases of rape and incest and refused to condemn in vitro fertilization. Georgia Right to Life and other pro-life groups would not endorse her candidacy, and even with Sarah Palin giving her the golden thumbs up, and a strong record of ethics reform and fiscal leadership, Handel lost.
Leaving public life and joining up with Komen, she thought, would be a welcome change to avoid controversy. After all, who doesn’t want to end breast cancer? How could that issue be divisive?
Cue Planned Parenthood.
Handel’s description of the process leading to Komen’s decision to end their grants to Planned Parenthood will make you cringe if, like me, you are annoyed by indecision. They waffled for months, and contrary to what the media would begin to spew after the decision was announced, it was not Karen Handel’s decision to make.
Komen had several good, sound reasons for ending the grants, and none of them had anything to do with a pro-life stance. As mentioned, the culture at Komen was quite Democratic and friendly to Planned Parenthood. Komen’s founder and CEO at the time, Nancy Brinker, was a Republican, but pro-choice. She even sat on a Planned Parenthood board in Dallas in the 1990s. President Liz Thompson was a personal friend of Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards. The managing director of community health was a former Planned Parenthood volunteer and outspoken proponent of the organization. The VP of communications was also a liberal, formerly working for the World Wildlife Fund. The list goes on.
While she was at Komen, from her earliest days, Handel says she “experienced open disdain for Republicans on a regular basis.”
In other words, this was not a situation where Susan G. Komen capitulated to the right because one nefarious ideologue somehow hypnotized them all. The decision was made because in a highly competitive fund-raising market, where every dollar counts, Planned Parenthood’s grants were, in the words of Cecile Richards’s buddy Liz Thompson, “crappy.” They were not “high-quality” grants. Thompson herself was leading an initiative – long before Handel joined Komen – to transition to an “outcomes-based” granting strategy.
Under this new approach, vague goals, such as ‘raising awareness’ or ‘educating women,’ would no longer be enough… We would strive to be more cost effective and efficient by moving away from what is called pass-through grants – whereby dollars are granted to one organization that then contracts with another entity to actually provide the service.
Many long-standing Komen grants, including the vast majority of Planned Parenthood’s grants, would not meet the goals of this new granting model and would be unable to live up to these higher standards and more stringent requirements.
Komen could no longer afford “crappy” grants like those to Planned Parenthood – plain and simple.
In researching the PP grants, Handel found other issues, such as the fact that the twice-yearly audits mentioned in Komen press statements about Planned Parenthood were not happening. Another problem: investigations. The grant contract specifically stated that an organization receiving grants from Komen could not be under investigation. In fact, they had defunded a grant to the Mississippi State Board of Health for this reason. Meanwhile, thanks in no small part to Lila Rose and Live Action, Planned Parenthood was under scores of investigations in several states and even at the federal level. Whether or not the investigations were politically motivated or unfair, under the contract language, was immaterial.
However, the investigation issue still played a much smaller role than the question of the quality of grants – Komen was not getting any real breast cancer prevention bang for its buck out of the $600,000 a year or so it granted to PP – which, by the way, makes up a miniscule fraction of a percent of PP’s annual budget. They get $1.5 million per day from the federal government alone. Yes, you read that right.
Then, in 2011, as Planned Parenthood became more and more politically visible under Cecile Richards’ leadership, more and more Komen donors and race participants began to withdraw from races and withhold support. When Marco Rubio backed out of a race due to Komen’s connection to Planned Parenthood, Handel and all of Komen’s leadership knew it was time to decide one way or the other. Komen was clearly, unequivocally losing money due to its affiliation with Planned Parenthood – money it needed to fight breast cancer.
Their decision to end the grants was not political – it was an attempt to avoid politics. Planned Parenthood was the organization with the political agenda, not Komen. Their mission was to end breast cancer, and it was being compromised by its affiliation with what is arguably the most divisive organization in the country.
From there, it gets reeeeally good.
You see, Komen and Planned Parenthood made a “gentle-ladies’ agreement” to stay out of the media, to handle the split amicably, and to just generally be nice to each other. Not only did Planned Parenthood break this agreement, but it became clear they never intended to honor it in the first place. Not only were they angling to blast Komen in the media, but they decided to use Komen’s completely reasonable, non-political decision to advance the leftist conspiracy about a “war on women.”
Arrayed against Komen was a hostile media, a powerful organization with various political and lobbying arms, and the entire Democratic Party. In fact, DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) actually phoned Nancy Brinker, who described the call as “extremely ugly.” Meanwhile, consultants hired to help orchestrate Komen’s handling of the media were friendly with Planned Parenthood…maybe too friendly. There were leaks. There were outright lies. And there were many even on Komen’s own board who were more concerned with the damage to Planned Parenthood – by losing a fraction of a percent of their budget – than Planned Parenthood’s substantial, measurable damage to Komen.
I’ll let you read the book for the rest because I don’t want to spoil it for you, but suffice it to say, Karen Handel paints a disconcerting picture of an organization that has grown far beyond “health care,” even of the controversial variety. Under Cecile Richards’s leadership, Planned Parenthood has become the radical feminist arm of the Democrat Party and the leftist agenda, and it uses its relationships with innocuous non-profits that everybody loves – like Susan G. Komen – to “pink-wash” its radical agenda and mainstream itself.
Handel’s description of the big cave – when Komen lost its nerve under a powerful surge of media and political pressure and reversed its decision – will turn your stomach. But what will really make you feel sick is the way Komen let Handel become a scapegoat.
If Komen had stuck to its guns, it would have lost some donors, but it was already gaining many more. And it would have proved that it was not a political organization, that it would not let any ideology compromise its fight against breast cancer. Instead, the people at Komen caved. And they’ve paid for it.
Handel’s book is full of many more juicy tidbits and revealing anecdotes. I doubt either organization – Komen or Planned Parenthood – will be happy to read this book. But I was happy to, because now that she knows what she knows, Handel has turned her formidable will and intellect towards defeating the Planned Parenthood machine. We may disagree on a few issues, but I, for one, am glad to have her on my side.
Support Handel and Live Action by clicking here to buy Planned Bullyhood.