Kyle Wingfield

Political commentary and opinion from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's conservative blogger

Opinion: Jon Ossoff's false attack on Karen Handel's time at Komen

You knew it was coming. But you might have expected it to be a little more honest, or at least clever.

"It," of course, is the Ossoff campaign's dredging up of GOP opponent Karen Handel's brief tenure at the Susan G. Komen organization. It comes in a new ad featuring a Smyrna OB-GYN who says Handel "cut off funding for Planned Parenthood cancer screenings" while at Komen. "I don't usually get involved in politics," she says, "but as a doctor and a breast cancer survivor myself, what Karen Handel did is unforgivable."

The doctor may not be just another truth-twisting politico, but she plays one on TV.

The controversy dates back to 2012, when Komen decided it would no longer provide grants to Planned Parenthood. The $600,000 in question was a rounding error: It represented about seven-tenths of 1 percent of Komen's spending on grants at the time, and less than seven-hundredths of 1 percent of Planned Parenthood's total revenues. The decision came with no fanfare, but plenty of blowback: Culture warriors on the left defend nothing more fiercely than the nation's leading provider of abortions , and their attack on Komen was coordinated and effective. Within a week, Handel had resigned as Komen's vice president for public policy.

Since then, there has been much examination of why exactly Planned Parenthood deserves grants from a breast cancer-awareness organization, or righteous indignation if the grants go away. The conclusion is clear: It doesn't.

Start with a fact hardly ever acknowledged about this episode: In no way would cutting ties with Planned Parenthood have reduced Komen's funding for breast-cancer screenings. Period. Had Komen stuck with its decision -- instead of caving to PP's PR onslaught within days and reversing its policy -- the money simply would have gone to other service providers.

That almost certainly would have helped Komen pay for far more effective breast-cancer screening. Fact-checkers have verified time and again that Planned Parenthood does not provide mammograms. Politifact in 2012  rated a statement to that effect by Handel herself as true . The Washington Post on a couple of occasions has awarded three (of a possible four) "Pinocchios" to Planned Parenthood supporters, including President Obama , for claiming it does offer mammograms.

What Planned Parenthood provides are clinical breast exams, in which doctors check patients for lumps by hand. To call this practice a "cancer screening," as in the Ossoff ad's script, is a stretch. The American Cancer Society does not recommend these exams because "research has not shown a clear benefit of physical breast exams done by either a health professional or by yourself." (Interestingly, Planned Parenthood's website acknowledges this shortcoming of self-examinations, but ignores the research on the kind it provides.) The National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention echo the lack of evidence supporting the exams and instead set guidelines for when women should have the more reliable mammograms.

In effect, the "screening" performed by Planned Parenthood amounts to ... telling women they should go get screened. Maybe that's why fewer and fewer women concerned about breast cancer rely on Planned Parenthood: In its most recent annual report , the organization reported 43 percent fewer breast-cancer exams than it performed just three years earlier .

These facts are not in dispute, yet Ossoff is just the latest leftist to ignore the truth here. That's only surprising if you believe him when he shows up on your TV claiming to be something else.

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About the Author

Kyle Wingfield joined the AJC in 2009. He is a native of Dalton and a graduate of the University of Georgia.