So who was behind Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s controversial decision to yank funding from Planned Parenthood?
The decision shocked many women’s health advocates, who had incorrectly assumed that interest in women’s health issues, would automatically translate into support for abortion rights. The unusual venture into a politically charged area by Komen, known best for its pink-themed T-shirts and races to raise money, has stirred up some very unfriendly debate.
Komen founder Nancy Brinker denied the accusations in a YouTube video.
"Contrary to what some are saying, we are not pulling any grants," she said. She said the group had reviewed its grants, adding "more stringent eligibility and performance criteria".
"The scurrilous accusations being hurled at this organization are profoundly hurtful to so many of us who have put our heart, soul and lives into this organization," she said. "But more important, they are a dangerous distraction from the work that stil needs to be done in ridding the world of breast cancer."
Brinker's denials did little to tamp down the controversy.
Suspicion has fallen on the group’s newish senior vice president, former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel. Handel was appointed to Komen last April, and she was quick to point out her strong Republican credentials. That's not in itself a surprise--Brinker is a Republican.
Handel had the backing of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in a failed 2010 bid to become the first female governor of Georgia, one that was spiced up by debates and negative advertising over Handel’s position on abortion rights.
Handel has complained about the attacks on her position and said she was “staunchly and unequivocally pro-life” in a blog post at the time.
“I believe in the sanctity and inherent dignity of human life, and I will be a pro-life governor who will work tirelessly to promote a culture of life in Georgia. And while I will not seek to prohibit abortions in the extremely rare cases of rape, incest, or where there is a real threat to the life of the mother, I will do everything in my power to encourage and promote alternatives to abortion in these tragic situations,” Handel wrote.
She also attacked Planned Parenthood. “First, let me be clear, since I am pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood,” Handel wrote.
She said that as Fulton County chairman, she allowed grants to Planned Parenthood for breast and cervical cancer screening, as well as a healthy babies initiative only because they came via the state and only because “Planned Parenthood was the only eligible vendor approved to meet the state criteria.”
“Additionally, none of the services in any way involved abortions or abortion-related services. In fact, state and federal law prohibits the use of taxpayer funds for abortions or abortion-related services, and I strongly support those laws. Since grants like these are from the state I’ll eliminate them as your next governor,” she promised.
A Komen spokeswoman has said the decision to remove funding from Planned Parenthood was forced because the group is under Congressional investigation -- one begun by House Energy and Commerce Investigative Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns, R-Fla. and one that California Democrat Henry Waxman called "trumped up" and that Colorado Democrat Diana DeGette has called a "witch hunt".