Karen Handel, Komen's senior vice president for public policy, resigned Feb. 7, only a week after her organization's decision to defund Planned Parenthood was reported. Her resignation was not a shock after an onslaught of Planned Parenthood-fueled outrage against the world's leading breast cancer charity prompted Komen to backtrack Feb. 3 by announcing Planned Parenthood affiliates would remain eligible for grants.
Meanwhile, the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) -- in a report prepared for a congressional investigation of the country's No. 1 abortion provider -- released evidence Feb. 7 showing waste, abuse and potential fraud by Planned Parenthood affiliates. Among its findings, ADF reported audits of seven of 79 affiliates over a 14-year period found nearly $8 million of fraud, waste and abuse.
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and its affiliates received $487.4 million in government grants, contracts and reimbursements alone in 2009-10, the most recent year for which statistics are available. PPFA clinics performed 329,445 abortions in 2010, which was more than one-fourth of the lethal procedures in the United States for the year.
Some critics of Komen's defunding decision had targeted Handel for blame in the organization's initial decision to halt grants to PPFA affiliates. A former Georgia secretary of State, she called for defunding Planned Parenthood during an unsuccessful gubernatorial run in 2010.
In her resignation letter, Handel, who joined Komen's staff in April 2011, acknowledged her role in the process to defund Planned Parenthood but said the decision "was fully vetted by every appropriate level within the organization" and Komen's board raised no objections. The decision to change Komen's criteria for grant-making, as well as the controversy over the organization's relationship with PPFA, preceded her hiring, Handel said.
Komen decided to abstain from future funding of Planned Parenthood affiliates because of a new policy that bans grants to organizations under government investigation, a Komen spokeswoman had said in a Jan. 31 report by the Associated Press. A House of Representatives committee began an investigation of Planned Parenthood in September.
Though PPFA President Cecile Richards charged Komen with appearing to "have succumbed to political pressure," Handel told Fox News, "The only group here who has made this issue political has been Planned Parenthood."
Handel made clear her disdain for PPFA's high-pressure tactics through social media and the mainstream news media. "he last time I checked, private, non-profit organizations have a right and a responsibility to be able to set the highest standards and criteria on their own without interference, let alone the level of vicious attacks and coercion that has occurred by Planned Parenthood. It's simply outrageous," she told Fox News.
She resigned because it became obvious she was "too much of a focal point," Handel said. "I really felt I had a responsibility to step aside so that could refocus on their mission."
Nancy Brinker, Komen's chief executive officer, wished Handel the best after receiving her resignation and said in a statement, "We have made mistakes in how we have handled recent decisions and take full accountability for what has resulted, but we cannot take our eye off the ball when it comes to our mission."
From a pro-life perspective, the widespread news coverage of Komen's original action, the PPFA-orchestrated reaction and Komen's subsequent policy change served a couple of educational purposes for the public:
(1) More Americans, including pro-life advocates, now know the breast cancer foundation is giving to Planned Parenthood. As a result, pro-lifers' donations to Komen and participation in its popular five-kilometer, fund-raising runs/walks that draw more than 1.6 million participants each year likely will decline further.
(2) More Americans now realize Planned Parenthood centers do not offer mammograms but refer women to other clinics for the screenings.
Komen affiliates gave about $680,000 to PPFA centers last year, AP reported. An analysis last year by the pro-life American Life League found 18 of Komen's about 120 affiliates had given PPFA centers grants totaling nearly $630,000 in the 2009-10 fiscal year.
In announcing its Feb. 3 change of course, Komen said it would amend its new criteria "to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political."
The current federal investigation of PPFA will certainly be more than political if the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee finds the ADF report is the tip of an iceberg of misuse of government funds. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R.-Fla., who is leading the committee's investigation, asked Richards in a September letter to provide audits, documentation, policies and procedures regarding such issues as improper billing, segregation of federal funds from abortion services and reporting of suspected sex abuse and human trafficking.
Based on its review of federal and state audits, ADF reported there were 12 kinds of potential fraud PPFA affiliates were engaging in, including overbilling and illegal billing for services or drugs related to abortion. ADF's report was based on audits available to the public and confirmed by undisclosed sources.
The ADF report said PPFA's "primary motivation is to take advantage of 'overbilling' opportunities to maximize its revenues in complex, well-funded federal and state programs that are understaffed and rely on the integrity of the provider for program compliance. Thus, Planned Parenthood's primary motivation appears not to provide quality healthcare to patients who seek family planning services, but rather to enhance its profits."
The unknown extent of "waste, abuse and potential fraud" at PPFA affiliates deserves investigation by the House committee, according to ADF.
The Susan B. Anthony List assisted ADF in the report.
Planned Parenthood has been plagued by various scandals in recent years. Secret investigations by pro-life organizations have uncovered PPFA workers demonstrating a willingness to aid self-professed sex traffickers whose prostitutes supposedly are in their early teens, seeking to cover up alleged child sex abuse and agreeing to receive donations designated for abortions of African-American babies.
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.
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