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Karen Handel, Former Komen Executive, Issues Warning To Cecile Richards

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KAREN HANDEL
Karen Handel, former vice president for public policy for Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast-cancer charity, speaking during an interview in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, file) | AP

Karen Handel, the former executive at Susan G. Komen for the Cure who instigated the breast cancer charity's plan to pull grants from Planned Parenthood, delivered a lecture to the conservative Family Research Council on Thursday that sounded more like a battle cry.

"Planned Parenthood counted on conservative elected officials to be quiet, and they were silent," she said. "But they didn't count on me. Cecile Richards has absolutely no idea who she's picked a fight with, folks."

Handel, who is rumored to be considering a run for U.S. Senate in Georgia, has not dropped her fight against Planned Parenthood since a strong public backlash from Planned Parenthood supporters forced her to resign from Komen in February. She wrote a book about the incident, Planned Bullyhood, in which she calls Planned Parenthood "a bunch of schoolyard thugs," and on Thursday, she set out to further smear the family planning provider.

"Public scrutiny around Planned Parenthood was really growing ... so [they] decided to make mammograms and that they were a primary deliverer of health services one of their key messages," she said in defense of Komen's decision to stop their grants. "They literally co-opted the color pink, and for most people the color pink is associated with the fight against breast cancer. Their website, everything they did was pink, pink, pink, wrapping themselves in what I like to call a cloak of legitimacy."

Handel went on to question Planned Parenthood's status as a 501(c)3 nonprofit. She pointed out that the organization's political arm, called the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, campaigned for President Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates, while the health organization itself remained apolitical.

"How is that not a violation of campaign finance and IRS rules?" Handel asked. "I would ask you this: If the NRA [National Rifle Association], if the Family Research Council through its nonprofit was out blatantly campaigning for a candidate, don't you think the wrath of the IRS would be raining down on you? I would guess it would be."

Planned Parenthood did not immediately respond a request for comment about Handel's accusations.

Handel's speech seemed to be in part a call to arms for social conservatives, which could also serve to lay the groundwork for her own political campaign. She said Republicans are too busy fighting amongst themselves to come together in an effectual way to end abortion and defund Planned Parenthood. Anti-abortion activists, she suggested, need to "think about fostering new allies" within the conservative movement that don't necessarily care now about the issue of abortion, and then convince those people later to join the cause.

"I know sometimes I'm not on the same page as folks about this, but I ask the question, who's the real enemy?" Handel said. "Is the enemy that individual who agrees with us 99 percent of the time? I think too often in the pro-life movement, we stake out the ground of purity at the expense of really being about to advance the cause. We need to think about these fiscal hardliners. They might not care about the pro-life issue, but they care about dollars and cents ... and I want them on our side, folks. We can come after their hearts and their souls tomorrow, but today I want them on our side."

UPDATE: Eric Ferrero, a spokesman for Planned Parenthood, responded to Handel's comments in an email to HuffPost on Thursday.

"It is hard to believe that there are people who still want to inject politics into women's preventive health care like breast cancer detection and treatment," he said. "Planned Parenthood is proud of our work to help detect breast cancer, and our focus is always on the patients who rely on Planned Parenthood health centers for this lifesaving care."

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