Susan G. Komen for the Cure is trying its very hardest to prove to its supporters that it didn't decide to stop giving grants to Planned Parenthood because of an internal or external right wing political agenda, which is steaming, obvious bullshit. Now, it turns out that people from inside Komen confirm that the decision was a political one, and the politics of Komen are swinging wildly to the right thanks to the metastasized ideology of Karen Handel, former Mama Grizzly, failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate, and longtime anti-Planned Parenthood crusader.
Komen's official line on the reason for cutting off funds to Planned Parenthood was a newly-instituted rule that declared that the organization was not to give funds to organizations under investigation at the local, state, or federal level. According to Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic, former employees of Komen told him that the rule was, in fact, designed to single out Planned Parenthood. The former employees told Goldberg that Karen Handel was behind the new rule, which was instituted in December. Employees of Komen also told Goldberg that Handel and her cronies saw the Planned Parenthood Congressional investigation as an opportunity to finally end Komen's relationship with the family planning organization.
And in case your brain still isn't calling "bullshit" on Handel's Planned Parenthood politicking: Komen gives grants to more than 2,000 organizations, and so far, Planned Parenthood is the only one that's been affected by the Handel Rule.
Komen anticipated pushback from the policy change, and in an attempt to pre-address the damage, distributed internal memos to its employees, providing them with talking points to use when asked about whether the decision to defund Planned Parenthood was political. One of the canned answers they suggested was,
Susan G. Komen is deeply committed to providing breast health services to women throughout the U.S. It is our belief that where a woman lives should not determine whether she lives. Komen provided funds for 700,000 breast screenings last year alone, and provided financial and social support to another 100,000 women, as part of our $93 million investment in education, public health outreach and service to vulnerable women last year alone. That work will continue. We believe these new standards will further enhance the integrity of our granting process and strengthen our overall community health program.
But this hasn't gone down smoothly for all Komen employees. In fact, the charity's top public health official Mollie Williams resigned after the rule's implementation back in December. Her employees say that she left because she felt the apolitical ideals of Komen were being violated by pressure from the political right, and that she could no longer perform her job with a clear conscience. It seems that many of the employees thought this was a bad move, and told Komen's board that to cut off funding for the cancer screening work of Planned Parenthood would be harmful to both the patients who benefit and to Komen's image as a whole. The board ignored this recommendation, and approved the Handel Rule, and all hell broke loose.
Good call, board!
The firestorm of controversy that's whirlwinded around Komen has prompted the company's founder and CEO/jillionaire Nancy Brinker to make a tone deaf video where she assures Komen donors that they're doing all sort of stuff for poor women. Like appearing in a video looking like a rich lady caricature surrounded by expensive books. Grant standards are under review all the time, she assures viewers, and this "strategic shift" is no different. Except the new rule only affected one organization, right, Nancy?
Handel herself has been largely silent on the issue, until last night, when she all but confirmed what everyone suspected by retweeting— and quickly deleting— a tweet that read "Just like pro-abortion group to turn cancer orgs decision into a political bomb to throw. Cry me a freaking river." Alas, no one taught Karen Handel about screen grabs. The internet's forever, Handel. Cry me a freaking river.
Handel didn't bother to scrub her earlier political tweets before becoming the Senior Vice President of Public Policy at Susan G Komen for the Cure. Like this one, where she talked about how great it was to hang out with pro-life organizations. Or this one, where she promised to pass a racist immigration laws in Georgia, like the one they have in Arizona. Or the celebratory tweets where she's just beside herself that Sarah Palin endorsed her, making her an honorary Mama Grizzly. Or all the tweets where she promised Georgians to get rid of Obamacare— because health care is something you earn, especially if you have cancer, right, non-doctor lady who works for Susan G. Komen for the Cure making health care decisions for poor women?
This isn't to say that people with strong political opinions shouldn't be able to work in non-political arenas and without their opinions being held against them. But Karen Handel was asked to work at a high level position in an organization that deals with women's bodies and women's health after proving herself incapable in the public arena of separating women's bodies and politics. It was a bad hire for Komen, and now it's a Public Relations nightmare.
Komen's brand is imploding and seriously alienating young women and politically progressive supporters who were drawn to the cause expressly because of their non-political approach to a non-political disease. But when a charity hires a woman like Handel, a woman who must always attach politics to a woman's body, and allows her to project her political beliefs into her work, Komen ceases being a viable charity and starts being a self-righteous political organization for rich ladies who like hanging around with celebrities. It's a social club, and the only thing it's curing right now is people's desire to raise any more money for them.