Sunday, February 19, 2012

The show ain't over until the pregnant lady sings

Well, it's been a week or two, and the American public, with their beagle-puppy attention span, can no longer remember the little tiff between Planned Parenthood and the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

(For those of you slipping into a CNN-induced haze, Karen Handel resigned as Senior Vice President for Public Policy of the Susan G Komen Foundation; she was widely accepted as being responsible for Komen deciding to defund Planned Parenthood.)

Being a Republican, Handel is, of course, wandering around trying to play the victim card, because martyrdom is the default strategy of the Right. Fortunately, the previously-mentioned attention span problem has pushed her deep into the sidelines where she belongs.

Her resignation letter included the following fascinating viewpoint.
We can all agree that this is a challenging and deeply unsettling situation for all involved in the fight against breast cancer. However, Komen’s decision to change its granting strategy and exit the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood and its grants was fully vetted by every appropriate level within the organization. At the November Board meeting, the Board received a detailed review of the new model and related criteria. As you will recall, the Board specifically discussed various issues, including the need to protect our mission by ensuring we were not distracted or negatively affected by any other organization’s real or perceived challenges. No objections were made to moving forward.

I am deeply disappointed by the gross mischaracterizations of the strategy, its rationale, and my involvement in it. I openly acknowledge my role in the matter and continue to believe our decision was the best one for Komen’s future and the women we serve. However, the decision to update our granting model was made before I joined Komen, and the controversy related to Planned Parenthood has long been a concern to the organization. Neither the decision nor the changes themselves were based on anyone’s political beliefs or ideology.
Just so you know, there are a bunch of huge lies in those two little paragraphs. Let's consider two of them.

"the controversy related to Planned Parenthood has long been a concern to the organization"

Really? Has it, now?

Komen founder Nancy Brinker published Promise Me in 2010, a memoir about starting the Susan G. Komen Foundation because of a deathbed promise to her eponymous sister.

Consider this excerpt (from, remember, just two years ago):
In the book, she discusses how the Curves workout chain withdrew their support to Komen in 2004 due to Komen's grants to Planned Parenthood centers. Brinker is clear about why they refused to buckle to Curves' pressure:
"The grants in question supplied breast health counseling, screening, and treatment to rural women, poor women, Native American women, many women of color who were underserved--if served at all--in areas where Planned Parenthood facilities were often the only infrastructure available. Though it meant losing corporate money from Curves, we were not about to turn our backs on these women."
And despite Handel trying to claim that it was Foundation policy and she was just trying to enforce it, the people she worked with don't agree: it was entirely her doing, she came up with the excuse needed to defund, and she was the primary motivator pushing it through.

Now, despite her attempts to claim that she resigned in the face of a hostile "liberal media" (and, holy crap, do I wish that there was such a thing as a "liberal media"), considering the big picture, I'm personally willing to say that she didn't really resign, so much as she was forced out; at the very least, she put in her resignation before she would have been fired.

Why do I suggest this? (And let's be honest - I'm not "suggesting" it, I'm coming right out and saying it.) Because she wasn't very good at her job. She, in fact, failed badly, just a few months after being hired.

Remember, the job she was hired for was Senior Vice President for Public Policy.

Put aside your politics. Your personal feelings on "freedom of choice" vs. "abortion" don't make a bit of difference to the following argument. If anything, they get in the way. Suppress them for just a minute.

The evidence shows that she was the person pushing the policy to immediately stop funding Planned Parenthood. And that, by itself, is a blatantly stupid policy: when dealing with a group who hires as many lawyers as Planned Parenthood does, one truth should hold sway over every other consideration: if you publicly promise to give them money, you damned well follow through on that promise!

Lawyers love stuff like that. They can't even stand straight from the law-boner it gives them.

So, bad policy. From the Senior Vice President for Public Policy.

Second, and more important, "Senior Vice President for Public Policy" is an extremely fancy, extremely well-paid PR position. She's managing the public face of this charitable empire: the policies she sets up and advocates define how people see the Susan G. Komen Foundation. And when they end up looking like political hacks instead of public health advocates, somebody isn't doing their job.

Like, maybe, somebody in charge of Public Policy.

So, in the end, Ms Handel will probably get a book deal out of it, and a paying gig at Fox "News" whenever the subject of abortion comes up.

More importantly, what we have to do is keep an eye on the Susan G. Komen Foundation during the next round of grants. Because if they try to quietly stop giving grants to Planned Parenthood in the shadow of all this, that will tell us something about them, won't it?

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