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6 Things You Need To Know About the Komen Foundation/Planned Parenthood Controversy (Updated: Komen Reverses Decision)

Whether Americans were suspicious of Komen to begin with or just fed up with the politicization of women's health, this feels like the last straw.

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Before Handel’s hiring, Komen’s lobbying shop was staunchly Democratic — from its head to its hired guns...And when their lead lobbyist, former Democratic staffer Jennifer Luray, quietly left in 2010, she took with her a six-figure severance package not in keeping with an employee that just found a new job.

At the time Handel was hired as a consultant — shortly after Luray left — Handel told  the local magazine  Northside Woman that Komen was her first and only client, and that her role was to “[work] with [the affiliates] to make sure they are as strong as they can be”...That would seem to belie Komen Foundation President Nancy Brinker’s  assertion today that Handel wasn’t involved in the decision to end most affiliates’ grants to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings, let alone  her assertion that none of their decisions were “political.”

Handel and Brinker are in the middle of a genuine firestorm, deservedly so.

Here's the reality -- the war on Planned Parenthood will continue and the effort to isolate it from the medical community will continue. But the pro-choice community can be thankful that this nasty public breakup reflects well on Planned Parenthood, and poorly on those who disavow it. It reflects on those disavowers so badly that many of us have remembered just how pernicious certain aspects of the mainstream breast cancer awareness movement has been, and redoubled our suspicions.

Like many dozens of others this week, I've gone back to Barbara Ehrenreich's Cancerland to be reminded of this truth: "In the harshest judgment, the breast-cancer cult serves as an accomplice in global poisoning -- normalizing cancer, prettying it up, even presenting it, perversely, as a positive and enviable experience."

Planned Parenthood keeps its focus on women's health, plain and simple, and includes abortion as part of that comprehensive approach. It doesn't try to gussy up health issues, or prettify them, or politicize them. It's the other side that does the politicizing. Maybe the outrage and the mea culpa it forced Komen to issue will finally make other organizations think twice before they stab a beloved health organization in the back the way Komen has done.

Sarah Seltzer is an associate editor at AlterNet, a staff writer at RH Reality Check and a freelance writer based in New York City. Her work has been published in and on the websites of the Nation, the Christian Science Monitor and the Wall Street Journal. Follow her on Twitter at

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