Karen Handel and Planned Bullyhood: exclusive interview

 

Karen Handel, a former Susan B. Komen Foundation executive who resigned her post following criticism by feminists, has published a memoir about her experiences in facing the outcry that emerged in a confrontation with Planned Parenthood and its supporters. Released this month, Handel’s book, entitled Planned Bullyhood, seeks to prove that Planned Parenthood and its president, Cecile Richards, acted like schoolyard thugs. Handel has insisted that Komen – which seeks to find a cure for breast cancer and assist women – had decided to defund Planned Parenthood in an effort to cut out what Komen President Liza Thompson has described as “crappy grants” to organizations like PP that do not directly provide mammograms to women. 
 
In her memoir, Handel wrote that Democratic National Chairman and U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz was one of the most intimidating of the “schoolyard thugs” that compelled Komen to retreat on its decision to defund Planned Parenthood. Planned Bullyhood recounts that Wasserman Schultz phoned Komen founder Nancy Brinker in a call that was “extremely ugly in its tone” on the night before it was reported that Komen was blocking grants for cancer screening to Planned Parenthood. Handel claimed that Brinker would regret the decision, and for hiring Handel, a pro-life advocate. "According to Nancy, Wasserman Schultz raised one additional issue: me," Handel writes. "I wrote down precisely what Nancy said Wasserman Schultz had said: 'How dare you hire someone who was diametrically opposed to Planned Parenthood.'"
 
Handel recounts in the book that one of Komen's stated reasons for defunding Planned Parenthood was an ongoing congressional investigation into the abortion provider, led by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.). According to Handel, Brinker told her that Wasserman Schultz tried to defend Planned Parenthood,  arguing that the organization was frequently under investigation by pro-life politicians and that those inquiries should not enter into Komen's  decisionmaking about its grants. When Brinker adhered to her decision, Wasserman Schultz became "overbearing, if not threatening" on the phone call, writes Handel."Was it appropriate for a sitting member of Congress and the head of the DNC to browbeat a private organization about its grants and who would get them?" Handel writes. "The timing of the call seemed to suggest that if Komen would just continue the Planned Parenthood grants, all would be forgiven -- that if Komen got back in line, the bullies would back off."
 
In an exclusive interview with Spero News, Handel spoke widely about her experiences in dealing with Planned Parenthood. She said that one reason for her resignation was out of concern for the best interests of Komen, since she had become a focal point in the controversy involving Planned Parenthood. But a second reason, said Handel, was Komen’s capitulation to Planned Parenthood and her discomfort with the politicization of the fight against breast cancer.  A second reason was personal, said Handel. “When Komen began discussions about the new granting model and ultimately the organization made the decision to begin the transitioning from Planned Parenthood, it had nothing whatsoever to do with politics. It was about women and the fight against breast cancer. But for me, when caving into the bullies and caving into Planned Parenthood, in capitulating, it somehow had become about politics. And I had a real issue with that because, for me, breast cancer is just not about politics.”
As for the conversation Komen executive Brinker had with Wasserman Schultz, Handel repeated the charge that the DNC chair and congresswoman told Brinker “who dare you” hire the author of Planned Bullyhood. Wasserman Schultz’s remark, said Handel, is a “threatening phraseology.”
 
Handel could not say what is the status of Congressman Stearn’s investigation of Planned Parenthood. She did say, however, that “any organization that relies on our tax dollars for nearly 50 percent of its budget should be under intense scrutiny. Particularly because some of the claims, and actually the findings about Planned Parenthood in the past couple of years. As you probably know, in the state of Illinois, they had to reach a settlement for hundreds of thousands of dollars for overbilling of government programs. This is an organization that warrants some scrutiny, particularly given how much they get: $1.5 million every single day of our tax dollars.”
 
 
As for Planned Parenthood’s tactics, Handel said that “Bullying has become the weapon of choice by liberals these days. Planned Parenthood went on a full-on assault, and attack on Komen in an effort frankly to destroy it. It was over $700,000 in grants when Planned Parenthood has $1 billion a year budget. These grants were inconsequential. They rallied their supporters to overwhelm Komen’s Facebook and their website. But more than that: there were bomb threats, Komen’s corporate sponsors were targeted with threats of boycotts, there were protests. Corporate sponsors were told ‘See what we’re doing to Komen. If you don’t stop supporting them, we will make you our next target.’ That’s what bullies do. They are never satisfied. There is always another target.”
 
In capitulating to Planned Parenthood, said Handel, Komen has given a strong indication of which way it is going to go as to abortion politics. She predicted that Komen will again be at a crossroads as to funding Planned Parenthood at some point in the future. When Komen executives refer to grants to Planned Parenthood as “crappy,” said Handel, it is hard to justify such funding before corporate donors.
 
Handel is going on a tour to promote her book. A Catholic, she has been referred to as a “Trojan Horse” for the Catholic Church in the United States, while she remains a fervent opponent of abortion.  A former Secretary of State of Georgia, she has been active in Republican Party activities.


Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

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