Planned Bullyhood / Karen Handel
Oct 18, 2012 / By: Michael Spielman
I just finished reading Karen Handel's book, Planned Bullyhood, which offers a behind-the-scenes look at the tumultuous split and subsequent "reconciliation" between Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Planned Parenthood, America's largest abortion provider. Karen Handel is the former Georgia Secretary of State who was Komen's senior vice president of public policy during the very public controversy. She resigned almost immediately after Komen acquiesced to Planned Parenthood's strong-armed demands.
For those of us who watched these events unfold from the outside, Komen's awkward and evolving public statements were perplexing, to say the least. Handel's account sheds tremendous light on what was actually going on behind closed doors and helps explain how she ended up taking the fall for policy changes that were in the works long before she was on the payroll. Why did Handel take the fall? In large measure, it's because she was a political oddity at Komen. She was a known Republican, she had held state office, and she was on record as opposing abortion. From the very beginning, Handel was in Planned Parenthood's crosshairs, and it didn't take them long to float the story that she had infiltrated Komen's ranks for the express purpose of severing their giving to the abortion giant.
Though Planned Parenthood asserted that in not renewing their grants, Komen was placing politics over women's health, it was actually quite the opposite. Political interests were the only thing keeping these decades-old, Planned Parenthood grants going. Internally, they were referred to as "crappy grants" because they did virtually nothing to further Komen's mission. Despite the claims of Planned Parenthood president, Cecile Richards (and U.S. President, Barak Obama), Planned Parenthood does not provide mammograms. They only provide referrals. In decades past, one could argue that such referrals weren't available anywhere else, but that has not been true for a long while (if ever). In the context of breast cancer, Planned Parenthood is a "pass through" organization–a middle man (or woman) so to speak, and in an effort to be more accountable and efficient, Komen decided it was in their economic best interest to ensure their grants go directly to the organizations that are actually providing the services. Though many within Komen had strong, political sympathies towards Planned Parenthood, it finally became impossible to justify the grants. Political sympathies had kept the grants in place for a long time, but efficiency and accountability finally demanded that the grants be severed. Not a single board member objected, and Handel writes, "If anyone really believed that ending the grants would have left women without critical breast health services, I am convinced that we would have stayed the course."
Komen figured that since they had given tens of millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood over the years, and since the roughly $700,000 they gave each year was less than one-tenth of one percent of Planned Parenthood’s $1 billion annual budget, Planned Parenthood wouldn't put up a fight. They were wrong, and it got ugly fast. Planned Parenthood had known about the decision for weeks (or more), but despite their agreement to "share messaging and not go to the press," Cecile Richards clearly had other plans from the beginning. While she strung Komen along, under the guise of negotiating an amicable resolution, her troops were secretly advancing to the front line. When she publicly went on the attack, everything was already in place. And when Komen tried to call foul, their left-leaning advisors simply shrugged it off as Richards having "gone rogue."
Whether Komen's public bungling of the controversy was a result of internal sabotage or horribly-timed incompetence, not even Handel can fully say, but less than 72-hours after the story broke, Komen caved in to Planned Parenthood's well-orchestrated attack, publicly apologized, and promised to continue their funding. Handel had seen enough. She resigned her post and refused their severance offers. "I was the lunch money that Planned Parenthood demanded," Handel writes, "the grants were the bus fare."
Ironically, one of the primary reasons Karen Handel had left politics and accepted a position with Komen in the first place is because she wanted to escape the shadow of abortion politics. As a gubernatorial candidate in Georgia, she had failed to secure an endorsement from Georgia Righto to Life (GRTL) because they didn't deem her pro-life enough. Her refusal to sign off on their "no exceptions" policy cost her the endorsement and almost certainly cost her the election. Though most of Planned Bullyhood aims at exposing the underhanded tactics of Planned Parenthood, Handel does not paint a flattering picture of Georgia Right to Life either. She writes, "Little did I know that I would soon be the poster child for irony—trying to reconcile GRTL’s attacks against me for not being pro-life enough with the Planned Parenthood bullies who vilified me as a pro-life zealot." This is how Handel recounts her involvement with the Planned Parenthood quandary at Komen:
Yes, I am pro-life, but that had nothing to do with my work at Komen. Komen was about ending breast cancer, not abortion… I was at Komen for one reason and one reason only: to help them in the fight against breast cancer. I was hired in April 2011. My job was senior vice president of public policy, and as part of that job, I was tasked with identifying options to disengage from Planned Parenthood. For at least a decade, Komen had been considering whether to end funding to Planned Parenthood...
[Komen founder and CEO, Nancy Brinker], along with Komen president Liz Thompson and others, was weary of the “pink” being tarnished by Planned Parenthood’s controversies and wanted Komen out of the middle of the pro-life/abortion debate. It was not our issue. It had become a major distraction, sucking up manpower and putting a damper on fund-raising. We were a breast cancer organization, and we couldn’t afford to offend either side…
My questions about grant accountability led to one of my most unpleasant encounters with [our community grant department]. Our press statements about Planned Parenthood said that twice-yearly audits were conducted. I was shocked to learn that there were no audits…
Particularly disconcerting was [our] statement that “Komen and its Affiliates do not provide any funding for abortions or for any activities outside the scope of our promise to end breast cancer.” Certainly, it was true that no Komen dollars were supposed to go to abortion, but the reality is, we had no way to really know. In fact, as I looked into the grants further, it would turn out that in several Planned Parenthood grants, funds could be used for general administrative overhead or for salaries of certain employees…
Planned Parenthood was already out of compliance with Komen’s existing policies and precedents… Komen’s existing contracts and past precedents should have already prompted action on the Planned Parenthood grants… The contract stated clearly that if an organization was debarred from receiving state or federal funds, the organization’s grant would be revoked. It was a definitive statement with no discretion and no leeway for mitigating circumstances...
Over the past decade, various state audits of Planned Parenthood had concluded that Planned Parenthood had overbilled for and misused government funds. These states included California, New Jersey, New York, and Washington. And recently, the state of Illinois launched an investigation into Medicaid fraud by a Planned Parenthood chapter in that state...
It was also a fact that a number of Planned Parenthood chapters had been found in violation of various state laws. It was also a fact that Komen already had a precedent of halting a grant to an organization under investigation—and under far less egregious circumstances… had Komen been enforcing its existing criteria, Planned Parenthood would have already been deemed ineligible and the existing grants revoked.
Karen Handel never acted unilaterally in the decision to defund Planned Parenthood, nor did she have the authority or ability to do so. Rather, she made a conscious decision to completely stay out of political activities during her employ with Komen, "simply to avoid any questions or even the appearance of partisanship." Nevertheless, she became the target, and in desperation, Komen let her be the martyr. "In being so focused on how to shield Planned Parenthood from any negative reaction," Handel writes, "Komen failed to recognize Planned Parenthood as a potential enemy. I don’t believe anyone seriously thought that Planned Parenthood would literally try to destroy Komen. We were too busy worrying about how to minimize Planned Parenthood’s hurt feelings." Komen's biggest mistake she says, "was in being so apolitical that we failed to recognize that our enemies weren’t."
For my part, perhaps the most significant observation in the book relates not to the atrocious fact that the largest abortion provider in the country receives $500 million a year in tax-payer money. That is deplorable, but consider this as well:
It is alarming that any organization funded to such a significant extent with our tax dollars can be so emphatically partisan and so deeply entrenched in political campaigning...
Throughout Planned Parenthood’s assault on Komen, my personal politics—and even Nancy’s—were the focus of much airtime, ink, and ire. Cecile was given a full pass. Planned Parenthood’s deep political connections and aggressive political campaigns were ignored. Cecile openly endorsed President Obama—and has been on the campaign trail for President Obama and various Democratic candidates. She spoke at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Planned Parenthood is even prominently featured in Obama campaign ads. None of this was mentioned by mainstream media.
I’ve learned a lot about Planned Parenthood since that last Monday in January when the abortion provider opened fire on Komen. I knew about the arguments that every dollar of government funding freed up a dollar for abortion services. But I think that the government subsidies do even more than that. The government subsidies that Planned Parenthood receives enable it to free up dollars that are then shifted from its nonprofit work to its political work. With considerable government dollars flowing in, Planned Parenthood can focus much of its fund-raising efforts on its political mission. Each year, Planned Parenthood’s 501(c)3 “donates” millions of dollars from its budget to its 501(c)4—as a gift. Planned Parenthood’s 2010 form 990, filed with the IRS, shows that Planned Parenthood granted $6.5 million to its Action Fund. They gave that entity almost $ 100,000 just for shared facilities. Another $ 3.1 million was used to cover Action Fund employees’ salaries, and another $3.3 million to reimburse another organization’s services. Essentially this is a legalized scheme in which Planned Parenthood takes in nearly $500 million a year in government money and hundreds of millions more in other revenue—contributions and payments for services—and then turns a significant portion of these funds over to its political arm to support Democrats in order to keep the money well pumping.
A corrupt triangle has been empowered: government money flows to Planned Parenthood; Planned Parenthood money is then used to attack its opponents and elect its friends; those friends funnel more taxpayer money to Planned Parenthood. Without their permission, the American taxpayers—that’s you and me—have been turned into subsidizers not only of abortion but also of political propagandizing.
It really is astounding how politically-entrenched this billion-dollar "non-profit" actually is–and how most in the media give their blatant partisanship a free pass. Remember the media firestorm that erupted when Chick-fil-A's Dan Cathy publicly expressed his private opposition to gay marriage? He and his company were skewered and vilified. Now imagine if Chick-Fil-A, instead of being a privately held company, received $500 million in tax dollars each year? What would the outrage have looked like then? And yet Planned Parenthood president, Cecile Richards, campaigns for president Obama almost everywhere he goes and spends millions to attack his political opponents–with our money. Where is the outrage? Karen Handel concludes her book by saying, "thanks to Planned Parenthood, I am now a new soldier—an accidental soldier, perhaps, but one who is going to stand up to them and expose them for what they really are." Here's to hoping this book does exactly that!
Michael Spielman is the founder and director of Abort73.com. Subscribe to Michael's Substack for his latest articles and recordings. His book, Love the Least (A Lot), is available as a free download. Abort73 is part of Loxafamosity Ministries, a 501c3, Christian education corporation. If you have been helped by the information available at Abort73.com, please consider making a donation.