The Komen Response & The Woman Behind Komen’s Decision

Ken AshfordWomen's IssuesLeave a Comment

You know, the video is labelled "Straight Talk from Ambassador Nancy G. Brinker, Founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen", but there's not much straight about it (other than her jawline and Spock-like eyebrows).  Brinker skirts around the issue — curiously never specifically mantioning "Planned Parenthood" by name (one wonders why not, since that's clearly the reason why she made this video yesterday), nor illuminating on why the decision has been made to stop future funding of Planned Parenthood.


[Sidenote: Yeah, she's an ambassador.  That's what you get when you donate $175,000 to Republicans like George Bush — you get to become ambassador to Hungary]

She's also lying.  She talks about changes in grant recipients — as if their change in policy affects many of them…. 

“Regrettably, this strategic shift will affect any number of long-standing partners, but we have always done what is right for our organization, for our donors and volunteers.”

… but, as the New York Times reports today, Planned Parenthood is the only grant recipient affected.

Well, if the Ambassador isn't going to give us "straight talk", let's look elsewhere.

[UPDATE: Excellent reporting by Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic.  He goes behind the scenes at the Susan G. Koman Foundation.  His big finding?  Accoding to a woman on the Koman Board who resigned in protest, the Koman decision-making process said recent policies were adopted specifically to cut funding to Planned Parenthood.  The money quote: "The cart came before the horse in this case… The rule was created to give the board of directors the excuse to stop the funding of Planned Parenthood. It was completely arbitrary. If they hadn't come up with this particular rule, they would have come up with something else in order to separate themselves from Planned Parenthood." Read the whole thing]

According to Komen's spokesperson, the charity's new policy bars grants to organizations that are under such investigation. Specifically, Komen has decided to sever financial ties if a grant applicant or any of its affiliates is "currently under a local, state or federal formal investigation for financial or administrative impropriety or fraud."  And Planned Parenthood is under "investigation" by Congress, although everybody understands that the "investigation" was launched by a conservative Republican who was urged to act by anti-abortion groups.  In other words, the Planned Parenthood investigation is clearly political.

Komen likes to pretend it is taking the high road here by not sullying its hands with organizations that are "under investigation".  Of course, Komen is perfectly content with accepting millions from an entity under investigation for fraud, like its corporate partner, Bank of America:

  • In New York, Bank of America is being investigated for "fraudulently steered homeowners into overpriced insurance policies."
  • In California and Nevada, Bank of America is under investigation for "foreclosure fraud and other wrongdoing in the mortgage markets, including the packaging and selling of mortgage-backed securities by Wall Street players and scams by smaller players offering to help troubled borrower."
  • In Arizona, Bank of America is under investigation for its loan modification practices.
  • And, of course,  the federal government's new mortgage crisis unit will be investigating Bank of America's conduct leading up to the real estate crisis.


That said, it's a joke for the Ambassador to say this isn't political…. and here's why. 

Let's talk about Karen Handel.  Who is Karen Handel?  She became Senior Vice President of Komen in April 2011:

WASHINGTON D.C. – April 12, 2011 – Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, the world’s leading breast cancer organization, announced today that it has appointed Karen Handel to serve as senior vice president of public policy. 

Handel is a well-known and experienced policy maker, having held various positions in government at the local, state and federal level. Most recently, she was the Secretary of State for the state of Georgia, where she had oversight of 400 employees, responsible for overseeing elections, corporations, securities and professional licensing boards. 

In her role at Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Handel will be responsible for leading the organization’s federal and state advocacy efforts, including management of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® Advocacy Alliance. Handel has been working with Komen as a consultant for advocacy since January and with this appointment now officially joins the staff. She will be based out of Komen’s Washington, D.C. office. 

And what else Handel did before becoming Senior VP of Public Policy at Komen? Oh. She ran for Governor of Georgia.  Hmmm… I wonder what her policies were when she ran.

Unfortunately, her "Handel for Governor" website is no longer around.

Wait, what?

Oh, why thank you, Wayback Machine.  

Here's an excerpt from the Karen Handel for Governor blog (July 15, 2010):

Since my opponents and others continue to misrepresent my views on Life, I want to be abundantly clear about my core beliefs.  I am staunchly and unequivocally pro-life.  I believe in the sanctity and inherent dignity of human life, and I will be a pro-life governor who will work tirelessly to promote a culture of life in Georgia.  With recent scientific advances and others on the horizon, our society is increasingly facing new and serious moral and ethical issues. In dealing with these issues, I believe that the sanctity of human life must be the priority and fundamental premise upon which all policies are based.


My opponents have recently recycled old attacks against me concerning Fulton County’s funding of some programs through Planned Parenthood.  They are doing so without providing any context and continue to omit several key and important facts.  First, let me be clear, since I am pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood. During my time as Chairman of Fulton County, there were federal and state pass-through grants that were awarded to Planned Parenthood for breast and cervical cancer screening, as well as a “Healthy Babies Initiative.”  The grant was authorized, regulated, administered and distributed through the State of Georgia.  Because of the criteria, regulations and parameters of the grant, Planned Parenthood was the only eligible vendor approved to meet the state criteria.  Additionally, none of the services in any way involved abortions or abortion-related services.  In fact, state and federal law prohibits the use of taxpayer funds for abortions or abortion related services and I strongly support those laws.  Since grants like these are from the state I’ll eliminate them as your next Governor.

[Emphasis mine]

So there it is.  Less than two years ago, Komen's new VP for Public Policy ran for governor of Georgia on an anti-abortion platform.  In doing so, she vowed to end grants from the State of Georgia to Planned Parenthood for breast and cervical cancer screening.

Karen Handel didn't win the race for Governor.  But it looks like she got her wish to defund Planned Parenthood anyway.