Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Komen Situation Gets Even Worse: Top Executive Continues to Deceive, Even in Her Resignation Letter, and CEO Lies to the Public

The Vice President of Public Policy of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation has resigned, amid controversy created by the Foundation's decision to rescind funding from Planned Parenthood, thus succumbing to political pressure from anti-abortion rights groups.

According to an article in the Boston Globe: "The vice president of public policy at Susan G. Komen for the Cure who backed the breast cancer charity's move to strip Planned Parenthood of funding resigned Tuesday, saying she stands by the now-abandoned decision that set off a storm of controversy. Karen Handel, who had denounced Planned Parenthood as a former gubernatorial candidate in Georgia, said in her resignation letter and later interviews that she was actively engaged in the efforts to cut off the grants."

Also according to the article: "Brinker [Komen Founder and CEO], in an interview with MSNBC last week, said Handel 'did not have anything to do with this decision.'"

In her resignation letter, Handel writes: "Neither the decision nor the changes themselves were based on anyone’s political beliefs or ideology. Rather, both were based on Komen’s mission and how to better serve women, as well as a realization of the need to distance Komen from controversy. I believe that Komen, like any other nonprofit organization, has the right and the responsibility to set criteria and highest standards for how and to whom it grants. What was a thoughtful and thoroughly reviewed decision - one that would have indeed enabled Komen to deliver even greater community impact - has unfortunately been turned into something about politics. This is entirely untrue. This development should sadden us all greatly."

The Rest of the Story

What should sadden us greatly is that even in her resignation letter, this top Komen official is deceiving the public about the reasons for the Foundation's decision to de-fund Planned Parenthood.

While Handel would have us believe that the real concern was loss of funding due to withdrawal of support from anti-abortion rights groups, the truth is that Handel used this as a strategy to try to convince the Board to de-fund Planned Parenthood. She exaggerated this threat strategically to advance what was clearly a politically-motivated decision.

According to a Huffington Post article: "Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the nation's leading anti-breast-cancer charity, has insisted that its since-reversed decision to pull funding from Planned Parenthood arose from a routine change in criteria for grant eligibility that had nothing to do with abortion politics. But a Komen insider told HuffPost on Sunday that Karen Handel, Komen's staunchly anti-abortion vice president for public policy, was the main force behind the decision to defund Planned Parenthood and the attempt to make that decision look nonpolitical."

"'Karen Handel was the prime instigator of this effort, and she herself personally came up with investigation criteria,' the source, who requested anonymity for professional reasons, told HuffPost. "She said, 'If we just say it's about investigations, we can defund Planned Parenthood and no one can blame us for being political.'"

"Emails between Komen leadership on the day the Planned Parenthood decision was announced, which were reviewed by HuffPost under the condition they not be published, confirm the source's description of Handel's sole "authority" in crafting and implementing the Planned Parenthood policy."

"Handel's strategy to cut off Planned Parenthood involved drafting new guidelines that would prevent Komen from funding any organization that was under investigation by local, state or federal authorities. Since Planned Parenthood is currently the target of a congressional inquiry prompted by House Republicans into the way it uses government funds, the family planning provider would have been immediately disqualified from receiving new Komen grants." ...

"Americans United for Life and other pro-life groups have been pressuring Komen for years to cut ties with Planned Parenthood because some of its clinics offer abortions, even though none of Komen's money was used toward abortion services. Handel's internal strategy, the Komen source told HuffPost, was to exaggerate those attacks and use them to convince the leadership that funding Planned Parenthood was a political liability."

"Komen's been dealing with the Planned Parenthood issue for years, and you know, some right-wing groups would organize a protest or send out a mailing every now and then, but it was on a low simmer," the source said. "What Karen's been doing for the past six months is ratcheting up the issue with leadership. Every time someone would even mention a protest, she would magnify it, pump it up, exaggerate it. She's the one that kept driving this issue." ...

"The source said Handel submitted a final version of the new grant criteria to Komen leadership in November, and the board approved it in December, at which point Komen's top public health official, Mollie Williams, resigned 'on the spot.' 'It was apparent to everyone in the organization that Karen was doing everything in her power to defund Planned Parenthood,' the source said, 'and that's why Mollie Williams quit.'"

Shame on the Komen Board for approving this politically-motivated attack on abortion rights. And shame on the Board for using such an underhanded tactic to carry out that attack: changing the funding criteria to disguise the real reason for the change in policy.

It is even more important to recognize that in itself, making funding decisions based on threats of withdrawal of funding by political groups is a political action. When breast cancer research funding decisions are made not on scientific grounds, but on grounds of what political groups might be offended by what organizations are receiving funding, then politics - not science - is guiding the funding decisions.

You see - this is what Handel sadly fails to realize. By arguing that her true motive was to protect Komen from losing money because of withdrawal of support by fringe political groups with an agenda, Handel was admitting that she was bringing politics into funding decisions. Making decisions about how to fund research and services based on what political groups might be offended is hardly an apolitical method of decision-making. In fact, it specifically brings politics into what should be a purely scientific discussion.

Would Handel also argue that refusing to fund organizations that provide services for gay people in order to appease ultra-conservative groups who oppose homosexuality is an example of ensuring the "highest standards for how and to whom it grants?"

Would she argue that refusing to fund organizations that serve African-Americans in order to appease Ku Klux Klan members who might not support Komen is an example of ensuring the "highest standards for how and to whom it grants" and is not a "political" decision?

Would she argue that the withdrawal of funding from groups that serve undocumented U.S. residents in order to appease organizations that want to deport all of these people is a decision designed to ensure the highest standards and has nothing to do with politics?

In asserting that "neither the decision nor the changes themselves were based on anyone’s political beliefs or ideology," this top-ranking Komen official is continuing to deceive the public, even in her own resignation letter. She is not fooling anyone. And frankly, she is making the situation a lot worse.

As Free Thought Blogs opines: "Things just get worse and worse for Komen. Though they reversed their terrible decision, it’s unlikely that they will ever fully recover from this self-inflicted wound."

What makes things worse still is that Handel's resignation letter makes it clear that Komen Founder and CEO Nancy Brinker lied to Komen's constituents and the public when she denied, in an MSNBC interview, that Handel had anything to do with the Planned Parenthood decision. It also makes it clear that Handel lied in the same interview when she argued that appeasing anti-abortion rights groups had nothing to do with the decision and that the decision was based solely on excellence in grant-making.

The Komen Foundation has destroyed its brand and is no longer a credible entity in the field of breast cancer research and services. The Foundation has not only made a politically motivated decision to throw women under the bus in order to succumb to pressure from anti-abortion rights groups, but even worse, it has blatantly lied to the public. In doing so, Komen has completely lost the public's trust. It will never recover from this self-inflicted wound, but its only chance of even partial recovery depends on its first admitting that it lied to the public.

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