Former Susan G. Komen Foundation Vice President Karen Handel might be out of the organization, but she’s not out of the Planned Parenthood debate. Many believe that the group’s original decision to cut Planned Parenthood funding was spurred by her personal politics—as an outspoken pro-life supporter, it made sense—but in a new interview with The Daily Beast, she’s insisting that Planned Parenthood was a “gigantic bully,” breaking a previous agreement between the groups to keep quiet about their breakup.
Handel resigned on Tuesday, standing by Komen’s decision to cut funding (which the organization partially reversed last week), but insisting that it wasn’t at all political. But given her outspoken pro-life, anti-gay, anti-Planned Parenthood stance (when she ran for Governor of Georgia, her campaign blog included a statement that she does “not support the mission of Planned Parenthood”), most of us weren’t really buying it.
So now, it would seem, she’s attacking Planned Parenthood to strengthen her defense. In an interview with the Daily Beast, she claims that the decision to cut funding was made amicably, with a “ladies’ agreement” to keep it under wraps.
“The idea that anyone would suggest Komen had a political agenda is absurd,” Handel said in the interview. “Komen is a breast-cancer organization—that’s what it does.” Instead, she accused Planned Parenthood of making the matter political, saying the group had “unleashed Armageddon” by launching a social-media firestorm. “Planned Parenthood is a gigantic bully, using Komen as its own personal punching bag,” Handel said.
She’s also trying to flip the whole argument for women’s health over politics back on Planned Parenthood, by insisting that the political controversy surrounding the organization was distracting Komen from their focus on women’s health:
“Two dozen Catholic bishops were saying not to support Komen,” she continued. “We needed to find some options for moving to neutral ground. I was tasked with doing that.” She added, “An inordinate amount of staff time was spent trying to manage the controversy. We should be able to focus on our own mission and not be distracted by the controversy of another organization.”
The decision to cut funding was vetted by the board, she said, and it was in line with Komen regulations not to fund organizations that have been barred from receiving government funding. Planned Parenthood has been barred from receiving funding in some states, she said.
She says that last December, Komen’s President, Liz Thompson, met with Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, to discuss their decision to cease funding:
There was an open and candid conversation about the controversy and the effect on Komen. There was a gentle ladies’ agreement, if you will, that no one was going to go to the press about this. We wanted a smooth transition. What happened is nothing short of a disgrace. Cecile Richards put this issue in the press. There was a coordinated effort to get sites like moveon.org and change.org involved. There was an orchestrated, premeditated attempt to put this issue in the press. Talk about betrayal by Planned Parenthood—against an organization that took up for it for years.
But something Handel glosses over is the fact that Planned Parenthood is miniscule in size and funding compared to Komen. Even with the help of supporters like Move On and Change, they’re hardly big enough to be considered a “gigantic bully.” And her whole back story just fuels beliefs that the funding cuts were political, even if Handel herself wasn’t the only one behind the decisions.