Planned Parenthood Bullied the Komen Foundation to Preserve its “Trusted Healthcare Provider” Facade
“It was an all-out assault against Komen. We were being hit from every direction. I did not see coincidence; I saw coordination. It had to have been in the works for weeks—despite Hilary [Rosen], who was hired specifically to ‘manage the left’ and who told us that all was well. The ‘war on women’ was on.”
In her newly released book, Planned Bullyhood[i], Karen Handel, former senior vice president of public policy at the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, gives an insider’s account of the events surrounding the controversial split and subsequent reuniting of the Komen Foundation and Planned Parenthood. Seeking to set the record straight, Ms. Handel exposes the media spin and dirty tactics of Planned Parenthood that enabled the organization to bully the Komen Foundation into lowering its standards to preserve Planned Parenthood’s public image—or perhaps more accurately, its public mirage.
When the news of Komen’s decision broke, it was portrayed as though Komen was “cutting off” Planned Parenthood—that Komen was making them go cold turkey and, in the process, leaving women stranded without breast health services. Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood’s CEO, even said she was “surprised.” None of this was true; yet that’s how it was reported. Komen was never “cutting off” the Planned Parenthood grants. That was nothing more than Planned Parenthood propaganda, and the media played along. Komen ensured that funding for all existing grants through the contract period would be provided, and Komen would even continue certain other grants, despite the new guidelines. Planned Parenthood knew all of this.
The nature of the split and Planned Parenthood’s faux “surprise” were far from the only misrepresentations.
Media coverage of the Komen Foundation’s decision to no longer partner with Planned Parenthood largely failed to mention an important fact in the “controversy” over the initial grant denials: Planned Parenthood failed to meet the respected breast cancer research foundation’s newly established grant standards—standards designed to better serve women and achieve the Komen Foundation’s goal of beating breast cancer, a goal the month of October, as “Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” honors and seeks to advance.
That rationale was clear long before Ms. Handel went to print. At the time the grant denial was made public, after measuring the impact of its grants, the Komen Foundation “made the decision to implement stronger performance criteria… to minimize duplication and free up dollars for direct services to help vulnerable women… Consequently, some organizations are no longer eligible to receive Komen grants.”[ii]
In her book, Ms. Handel explicates Komen’s choice to invest in organizations that can better and directly help vulnerable women battle breast cancer.
Komen could not afford to continue granting in the same old way. Dollars were harder to come by. Donors expected that their contributions actually made a difference—that there be a real, tangible impact—in the fight against breast cancer.
Changing Komen’s grant standards—to give money on an “outcomes based granting strategy” instead of to “pass through” organizations like Planned Parenthood—“made perfect sense: get the biggest bang for each dollar invested.”
Ms. Handel does not hide the fact that “Komen was also looking for an exit strategy for the Planned Parenthood grants.” Donors were increasingly concerned with Komen’s relationship with the nation’s largest abortion provider, and many in the Komen Foundation wanted to get to “neutral ground” in the abortion debate.
Lost, however, amidst the vitriol and knee-jerk reaction of the usual Planned Parenthood supporters was this important fact: the Komen Foundation had carefully considered the best way to serve women and it is not at Planned Parenthood. The severing of ties was not because Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest abortion chain, but because Planned Parenthood fails to offer the level of care that the well-respected Komen Foundation knows vulnerable women need.
In her book, Ms. Handel laments the vicious firestorm unleashed by Planned Parenthood. “I thought Planned Parenthood was making a much bigger issue out of this than $680,000 in annual grants seemed to warrant. Why? Losing this funding would have virtually no impact on its sizable budget.”
The answer is obvious. Planned Parenthood’s loss was not to its bottom-line, but to its public image. Of course, Planned Parenthood will not publicly state that its ire stemmed from the fact that it failed to meet Komen’s standards for quality healthcare for women. Acknowledgment of this fact would expose the truth Planned Parenthood needs to suppress in order keep its operation in business: women and their medical needs are better served elsewhere.
Thus, unsurprisingly, Planned Parenthood worked a different narrative with the media.
Ironically, its narrative focused attention on another reason which should give Americans pause about Planned Parenthood: Komen chose not to issue grants to organizations under government investigation. (And as Ms. Handel’s book explains, this was not the drastic change the media painted it to be. “Planned Parenthood was already out of compliance with Komen’s existing policies and precedents.”) Nevertheless, media coverage still largely failed to report Planned Parenthood’s known malfeasance which triggered the ongoing investigations, including overbilling healthcare programs, failure to comply with parental involvement laws, and failure to report the abuse of young girls.
In July 2011, Americans United for Life released a groundbreaking report, The Case for Investigating Planned Parenthood,[iii] highlighting the scandals and abuses of the abortion provider, which receives over a million dollars a day in taxpayer funding, and detailing the need for further investigation. Since the release of the AUL Report, even more cases have come to light and, in December 2011, several former Planned Parenthood employees wrote a letter to Congress stating that they “are prepared to testify” about the transgressions they witnessed at Planned Parenthood clinics across the nation.[iv] These transgressions include not only financial misdeeds but also failure to “detect and act upon instances where a girl or woman was brought to the clinic under some degree of coercion, up to and including instances where the girl or woman was subjected to human trafficking and was a victim of crime.”[v]
When the Komen Foundation raised its standards to better serve women, there should have been nation-wide applause. Unfortunately, because Planned Parenthood is so desperate to keep the secret that women are better served elsewhere, the Komen Foundation was mercilessly persecuted. As Ms. Handel details,
Planned Parenthood talked a good game about how we shared a mission—that both organizations worked to save women’s lives. Yet Cecile [Richards] was willing to cripple Komen over $680,000 in grants—less than one percent of Planned Parenthood’s annual revenues. The reality is that Cecile was willing to sacrifice Komen’s real work on behalf of women for raw political purposes that had nothing to do with serving women.
Rather quickly, Planned Parenthood’s “bullying” paid off for the abortion giant, to the detriment of women, girls, and a more effective fight against breast cancer.
[i] Karen Handel, Planned Bullyhood (2012).
[ii] http://ww5.komen.org/KomenNewsArticle.aspx?id=19327354133 (last visited Sept. 11, 2012)
[iii] The Case for Investigating Planned Parenthood, (Americans United for Life 2011), available athttp://www.aul.org/aul-special-report-the-case-for-investigating-planned-parenthood (last visited Sept. 5, 2012).