Customer Review

36 of 43 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Uneven, but interesting, November 21, 2012
This review is from: Planned Bullyhood: The Truth Behind the Headlines about the Planned Parenthood Funding Battle with Susan G. Komen for the Cure (Hardcover)
I had trouble deciding how many stars to give this often interesting but very uneven book. I almost gave up during the introduction, but I persisted and found the book very interesting, except when Handel went into histrionic partisan mode. Handel has led a very interesting life, and if she has done all she says, she has a lot to be proud of.

Karen Handel is the one blamed for leading Komen to drop Planned Parenthood (PP). The thing is, even if it was Handel's idea (she insists it wasn't), she couldn't have done it by herself. She is left in the position of an outside lover whom a reconciling couple has agreed bears all the blame for the infidelity. That saves face and makes it easier to reconcile, but it isn't true. Say what you will, it remains that the infidel agreed to the affair and is the real betrayer. Set up as the scapegoat, Handel is understandably bitter.

Komen, according to Handel, couldn't make up its corporate mind. They wanted to dump Planned Parenthood for a number of reasons including dissatisfaction with their work and also because they were under enormous pressure from the prolife/antiabortion forces. This is a point at which I have problems with Handel. If PP was a bully, so was the Roman Catholic Church, the Baptist Church, et al. They were the other pincher putting pressure on Komen and Handel. Handel goes into the most detail about the Catholic church's backlash, beginning on p.83. Komen has worked with numerous Catholic organizations in the past, both in giving them grants and getting their help raising money. Then the Church, and like-minded organizations, cut all ties unless Komen cut ties with PP. Handel doesn't fault them for pressuring and hurting Komen, and once the organization was presented with the situation, she was in favor of bowing to the Catholic Church's demands.

Handel is very inconsistent in what she says about these issues. The problem seems to have been that Komen didn't want to admit to the latter reason knowing that they would offend some of their friends. They were also ambivalent about PP and their past relationship. At this point, I had a lot of sympathy for Handel, she simply could get not direction from, or please, people who can't make up their mind, and she probably would have done well to walk away at this point. So Komen tried to explain its actions via their new grant system and a reluctance to deal with organizations under investigation by someone or another. Apparently they hoped that they could tell the anti-abortion/pro-life forces that they were dropping PP over abortion, but keep this news from PP; a futile hope. Then they couldn't keep their story straight, backtracked and contradicted themselves. If it had truly been a matter of grants, then Komen should just have announced the new standards to all potential grantees and let the chips fall where they may. Even if PP couldn't connect the dots regarding the backlash, the fact that Komen was hiring publicists and making a PP a special case would have told them what was up. Handel is outraged that PP and its allies refused to accept this clumsy spin, when they knew that there was more to this decision.

Handel claims that Komen was trying to be neutral in the abortion struggle, but I don't see how withdrawing grants from PP because they also perform abortions is being neutral on the subject of induced abortions. After all, PP wasn't being given grants to perform abortions, and if Komen had any sense they made it clear in the grants that the money was to be used strictly for breast cancer-related projects. They should do that with all their grantees whether they do anything controversial or not. Neutrality would either be to avoid anyone who has a position on the subject or deal with anyone regardless of their opinion. I'm sure that Komen preferred the latter, but the prolife/antiabortion forces were pressuring them to choose sides. Handel argues that this was not a political decision but a financial one, but it was still forcing Komen to take a side in the culture wars. I suspect that if PP had accepted Komen's decision gracefully, they could have expected that every organization that they dealt with would be pressured just as Komen was.

So Handel's complaints about PP are a little hollow and a lot inconsistent. She sometimes goes into a partisan histrionic mode. She complains about PP's slick political/economic arrangements, but there are a lot of organizations that I find a lot scarier who do the same, liberal or conservative, Democratic or Republican. These things have generated a lot of outrage over the years, but the politician don't care to put a stop to it.

She goes a bit off the deep end and almost talks as if PP and the left have sinister occult powers and can summon demons, when the truth is that they have a constituency of American citizens who don't even have horns and tails. Just like the right, about whom my liberal friends make similar claims. Life is complicated; full of hard decisions and compromise, and honorable people can disagree. And everyone who agrees with you isn't always honorable. Throughout the body of the book, I thought that Handel had had enough thrown at her that she would recognize this simple point, but in the end she goes back to blind partisan mode. I can understand why Handel is bitter about PP, but having read about the pressure Komen was under from both sides I take a different view.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 1, 2013 7:11:27 AM PDT
Best review so far.

Posted on Mar 27, 2014 6:14:58 PM PDT
According to your review it would seem like the victim is Handel and the perp is Komen. Was it or was it not about abortion politics? Komen can't make up its mind.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 29, 2014 10:53:33 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 16, 2014 5:11:29 PM PDT
Really, it was about whether or not Komen had to take part in abortion politics. And if they did, could they talk out of both sides of their mouth.

I certainly didn't think of Handel, over all, being a victim, even if she was in an exasperating situation at one point.

Posted on May 29, 2014 12:07:48 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 29, 2014 12:08:18 AM PDT
B. Prince says:
Let's just be thankful the couple has reconciled, and the mistress has been turfed out on her rear end. However she did it, the woman managed to decimate one of the largest charities. She can add that to her resume of professional failures, which starts with her failure to complete her college degree.
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