Following much speculation that Karen Handel, the Susan G. Komen Foundation Vice President of Public Policy, was behind the decision to halt funding for the women’s health provider, she has resigned. Karen had previously run for Governor of Georgia on a staunchly pro-life, anti-Planned Parenthood platform, but she swears her decision to leave is, like, totally not political. Sure, Karen. Sure it isn’t.
Her resignation doesn’t come as a total surprise–and is, in fact, kind of great news for anyone who cares more about women’s bodies and breasts than political campaign talking points and super PACs. The past week’s debacle has also upped the odds that Komen will do a better job vetting and selecting someone less polarizing than Handel when they do rehire. (Which will likely be soon– a job posting that looked intriguingly like Handel’s position was posted to the Komen Foundation’s website just a few days ago). All of which could potentially allow the organization to focus on their real mission: raising money for breast cancer research.
Handel, as well as the rest of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, has stuck with her story that the decision wasn’t based on her, or anyone else’s, personal politics or anti-abortion beliefs, and that the foundation remains dedicated to women’s health, regardless of personal feelings about Planned Parenthood as an organization. But no one was really buying it–particularly considering that Handel has been so outspoken in the past about her conservative, pro-life, anti-gay stances. But really. It was just because Planned Parenthood is being probed by a conservative, pro-life, anti-gay Floridian. Oh, and then there’s that other thing they also cut off…
The Komen Foundation also ceased all funding of anything even mildly related to stem-cell research, another hot-button issue, and Handel’s ties to the anti-choice movement were a little hard to ignore– the resignation seems to speak the exact opposite: that the decision was entirely motivated by her personal politics, and that the response was simply overwhelming for the organization.
It’s unlikely that the Komen Foundation will be able to do enough of a PR jig to recover from this misstep because, while there are plenty of anti-choice individuals who heartily supported the decision, they have mostly been alienated by the foundation’s bizarre, half-apology, half-backpedaling last week. Indeed, the only people who will likely be left wearing pink ribbons will be those who are so dedicated to finding a cure for cancer that they truly don’t care about the politics surrounding the organization they are donating to.
But there’s one big victor among all of this–and it isn’t the Komen Foundation for the free publicity. Planned Parenthood, who has been the recipient of millions of dollars of donations and more support than its seen in years, has had the opportunity to tell the public about every other service it offers in addition to abortion, opening the eyes of many to the fact that they really do provide critical services to a wide array of women (not just open-legged trollops!), just like we’ve all been saying.
Of course, the Susan G. Komen Foundation isn’t the only group that accepts donations of time or money to the cause of breast cancer. Hospitals, cancer research organizations, a multitude of non-profits, and the American Cancer Society will all continue to do their work toward eradicating cancer and providing support to survivors and their family–without, I hope, the additional politics, which turn breasts into pawns, and uteruses into battlegrounds.
Image: Bill Clark / Roll Call