Former Susan G. Komen VP Karen Handel: Planned Parenthood "Hijacked This Great Organization"

In an interview with the Associated Press in Atlanta yesterday, ousted Susan G. Komen for the Cure vice president Karen Handel accused Planned Parenthood of "hijacking" the breast-cancer charity and conducting "the most unbelievable shakedown that I think we've seen in a long time."

"Planned Parenthood unleashed, unleashed a premeditated, vicious attack not only on Komen, but also on Ambassador Brinker as well," she said. "It was absolutely outrageous what transpired here."

Related: Can the Susan G. Komen Foundation recover from its Planned Parenthood PR missteps?

During the interview, Handel again contradicted Komen founder and CEO Nancy Brinker's assertion that Handel hadn't been involved in the organization's decision to cut off funding for breast-cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood, and confirmed rumors that she had been the driving force behind the new grant rules that excluded the women's health organization.

Former Komen Foundation vice president Karen Handel blasted Planned Parenthood in an interview on Tuesday. (AP Photo)
Former Komen Foundation vice president Karen Handel blasted Planned Parenthood in an interview on Tuesday. (AP Photo)

"I fully acknowledge that I was involved in this," she said. "I fully embrace that I was the lead in developing alternatives and working through the process."

"This was the best decision, in my view, for the organization in terms of how they were going to do granting, to not be in the middle of a controversial issue, and to be able to move the organization forward," she continued. "The last time I checked, this is a private, non-profit org that has every right -- every right -- to set its standards the way they choose to set it in the best interests of this organization."

Though Handel has been accused of being the sole person behind the decision, she pointed out that it had been "fully vetted at ever appropriate level of the organization" and that the board "knew that we were moving forward with this." Board member John D. Rafaelli, a Democratic lobbyist and a supporter of Planned Parenthood, agreed, and blamed himself for not anticipating the backlash.

"Honestly, I didn't think it through well enough," Rafaelli told the Huffington Post. "We don't want to be pro-choice or pro-life; we want to be pro-cure. We screwed up, I'm saying it. We failed to keep abortion out of this, and we owe the people in the middle who only care about breast cancer and who have raised money for us an apology."

In a more subdued interview with Fox News, Handel condemned Planned Parenthood and pro-choice supporters for pressuring Komen to restore funding.

"All of us should be saddened that an outside organization will put this kind of pressure on another organization around their processes and granting and how they do it and to whom they are going to grant," she said.

But she also admitted that long-standing outside pressure from pro-life groups who objected to Planned Parenthood's abortion services triggered the decision to change the grant criteria. Rather than criticize these groups for pressuring Komen, however, Handel -- who last week described Planned Parenthood as a "pro abortion group" and who ran for governor of Georgia on a pro-life platform promising to eliminate state grants to the women's health organization -- told Fox News that Komen needed to avoid the controversy.

"And I think everyone can agree that if you have a grantee where there's this type of controversy surrounding it, Komen was doing its level best to move to neutral ground," she added.

When asked if the defunding plan was her idea, Handel paused, and then sidestepped the question. "I'm saying this was long an issue for Komen, dealing with the controversies of Planned Parenthood."

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Planned Parenthood decision puts spotlight on Susan G. Komen Foundation's politics
Susan G. Komen and Planned Parenthood: Why the controversy will continue