Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Handel Under the Bus: The Komen Fallout Continues

Karen Handel just went under the bus at the Susan G. Komen Foundation. The organization's Vice President for Public Policy tended her resignation in a letter dated today. Komen insiders have repeatedly said she was the driving force behind the ultimately disastrous decision to cut grant money to Planned Parenthood's breast cancer screening programs.

Like any veteran felon, she maintained her innocence to the end regarding the policy change that cost Komen its reputation and an unmeasurable amount of  trust. As she was going out the door she claimed politics and ideology had nothing to do with any of it. She also asserted that the policy change was all ready in the works when she arrived and the were no objections to it by any member of the board when it was presented to them. This is probably not what the Komen people wanted to hear her say. The idea that the plot was afoot and fully approved without her help won't raise the level of confidence among those donors who were outraged by the move.

It doesn't help her case that when she was running for governor of Georgia she continuously bragged about how adamantly anti-choice she was and denounced Planned Parenthood on numerous occasions. No, this was a political move that blew up in her face and cost her that VP spot. It might be called a resignation, but given the foul publicity and dark accusations there aren't any circumstances under which Komen could keep her aboard. She was doomed as soon as Nancy Brinker reversed field and started issuing apologies, "for recent decisions". In public relations nightmares such as these someone must go out the window . At Komen it was Karen Handel.

Always quick to play the martyr the anti-choice Americans United for Life issued the following statement. "The events of the last week show just how ruthless the abortion industry will be to anyone who is perceived as not supporting their agenda."

The press release is, of course, prima facia bull shit. The violent reaction was caused by people enraged because Komen was ceasing to fund breast cancer screening, one of their primary missions. It had nothing to do with abortion or an agenda. What the social conservative movement is trying to do is marginalize Planned Parenthood. They don't want people thinking about breast cancer screening, or family planning, or anything else when it comes to that organization. They want Planned Parenthood to be regarded by the public solely as  providers of abortions.

This has been an ugly affair and it probably isn't over. There is no guarantee Planned Parenthood will continue to receive grants from Komen once the current ones run out. And the ties with the hard right remain despite the departure of Ms. Handel. Former Bush mouthpiece Ari Fleischer is now a communications consultant. Jane Abraham serves as the board director of Komen's advocacy arm. She is also General Chair of the anti choice group, Susan B. Anthony List. Brinker herself is so connected with this crowd she was named George W's ambassador to Hungary.

All this takes away from the basic issue of women's health and a search for the cure of a terrible disease. Pink ribbons are being trashed as I type.The Susan G. Komen Foundation has no one to thank for that, but themselves.


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