Top Komen Staffer Quit Over Policy Targetting Planned Parenthood; Others Point to Politics Behind Decision

Writing in The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg reports that sources with direct knowledge of the Komen decision-making process said recent policies were adopted specifically to cut funding to Planned Parenthood.

Screenshot of a retweet by Handel earlier today (subsequently deleted). See footnote. [img src]

Updated 2:32 pm, Thursday, February 2, 2012: CBS News LA reports that the head of the LA Chapter of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation has resigned over “decisions made [by Komen National] in the past year.”

See all our coverage of the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s break with Planned Parenthood here.

Writing in The Atlantic today, Jeffrey Goldberg provides substance to what most of us already knew: the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s decision to eliminate breast-cancer screening grants to Planned Parenthood affiliates was politically motivated.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to put these things together:

  • Komen hires Karen Handel, far-right former GOP Georgia gubernatorial candidate who campaigned in part on de-funding Planned Parenthood, Healthy Babies Initiatives and other services for poor women, and who has openly expressed hostility with Planned Parenthood’s “mission.”
  • Komen puts on their board Jane Abraham, Chair of the Susan B. Anthony List, major anti-choice political organization, for which de-funding Planned Parenthood is a major goal, and which engages in misinformation campaigns about Planned Parenthood funding, services, abortion and breast cancer links, and other issues.
  • Both of the above are strongly allied with groups boycotting Planned Parenthood.

But Goldberg talked to three sources with “direct knowledge of the Komen decision-making process” who told him that “the rule was adopted in order to create an excuse to cut-off Planned Parenthood.”

Goldberg writes:

The decision to create a rule that would cut funding to Planned Parenthood, according to these sources, was driven by the organization’s new senior vice-president for public policy, Karen Handel, a former gubernatorial candidate from Georgia who is staunchly anti-abortion and who has said that since she is “pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood.” (The Komen grants to Planned Parenthood did not pay for abortion or contraception services, only cancer detection, according to all parties involved.) I’ve tried to reach Handel for comment, and will update this post if I speak with her.

But in Goldberg’s words, “the decision, made in December, caused an uproar inside Komen,” and led Mollie Williams, the organization’s top public health official, to resign immediately in protest. Williams was the managing director of community health programs and directed distribution of $93 million in annual grants.

While Williams declined to speak to Golderg, John Hammarley, “who until recently served as Komen’s senior communications adviser and who was charged with managing the public relations aspects of Komen’s Planned Parenthood grant, said that Williams believed she could not honorably serve in her position once Komen had caved to pressure from the anti-abortion right.”

“Mollie is one of the most highly respected and ethical people inside the organization, and she felt she couldn’t continue under these conditions,” Hammarley said. “The Komen board of directors are very politically savvy folks, and I think over time they thought if they gave in to the very aggressive propaganda machine of the anti-abortion groups, that the issue would go away. It seemed very short-sighted to me.”

Hammarley made clear to Goldberg that the “Planned Parenthood issue” had vexed Komen for some time. “About a year ago, a small group of people got together inside the organization to talk about what the options were, what would be the ramifications of staying the course, or of telling our affiliates they can’t fund Planned Parenthood, or something in-between.”

He went on, “As we looked at the ramifications of ceasing all funding, we felt it would be worse from a practical standpoint, from a public relations standpoint, and from a mission standpoint. The mission standpoint is, ‘How could we abandon our commitment to the screening work done by Planned Parenthood?'” But the Komen board made the decision despite the recommendation of the organization’s professional staff to keep funding Planned Parenthood.

And Goldberg continues: “Another source directly involved with Komen’s management activities told me that when the organization’s leaders learned of the Stearns investigation, they saw an opportunity.”

“The cart came before the horse in this case,” said the source, who spoke to me on condition of anonymity. “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.”

Komen officials continue to deny that the decision was political.

This is, apparently, not intended as a factual statement.

Image footnote: Handel’s retweet, pictured above, reads as follows (in obvious reference to Planned Parenthood): “Just like a pro-abortion group to turn a cancer orgs decision into a political bomb to throw. Cry me a freaking river.”