Komen was founded by Brinker in 1982 in memory of her sister, who died of breast cancer, and it grew to be the nation’s largest-breast cancer charity, investing roughly $2 billion in health services and advocacy, and sponsoring the popular Race for the Cure fundraising events.
Yet despite its mainstream popularity, Komen was a target of anti-abortion groups because of partnerships with Planned Parenthood. The pressure escalated last year, with Roman Catholic bishops criticizing Komen for maintaining those ties and the publishing division of the Southern Baptist Convention recalling pink Bibles it had sold because some of the money generated for Komen was being routed to Planned Parenthood.
Handel says a break with Planned Parenthood had been pondered by Komen’s leaders long before she was hired, but the move became more definite during the latter half of 2011 and was approved by Komen’s board of directors in November. There was no objection from board members, but some Komen affiliates expressed dismay during a conference call in December, according to Handel.
Handel says Komen’s leaders _ during December and January _ were hopeful that Planned Parenthood would agree to an amicable split, and not go public with any angry reaction. However, Handel writes that she became worried about possible leaks to Planned Parenthood from Komen employees or consultants, and says she began to sense that things would end badly for Komen.
“Planned Parenthood would play the victim, accusing Komen of being bullies and succumbing to political pressure,” she writes. “I felt in my heart of hearts that Komen would not have the fortitude to see this through … and somehow knew that I would be the scapegoat.”
On one hand, the cancer charity sought to develop new criteria that would disqualify the Planned Parenthood grants on the grounds they were not cost-effective. Handel also determined that the grants could be suspended on grounds that Planned Parenthood was under investigation at the state and federal level, notably a probe launched by a conservative Republican congressman at the urging of anti-abortion groups.
During the three days after the grant cutoff was reported, Komen was inconsistent in efforts to explain its move _ citing the investigation angle initially, the granting criteria at later points, and, in Handel’s view, damaging itself with changing messages.
Another key point in that tumultuous week came on Feb. 2, when Brinker granted an interview to Andrea Mitchell of NBC News.
Once the controversy spilled into the public arena, Handel says Komen was “outgunned and overwhelmed” by Planned Parenthood and its Democratic allies, who depicted the grant decision as part of a conservative “war on women.”
In an interview, Handel said she had no specific professional plans at this stage, having been busy with her book for the past few months. She said she wished Komen well, and expressed hope that her book would provide useful ammunition for critics of Planned Parenthood.
The book is being published by Howard Books, a division of Simon and Schuster with a focus on evangelical Christian themes.View Entire Story
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