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The Democratic contender for Georgia’s open congressional seat, Jon Ossoff, accused his Republican opponent of spearheading a controversial decision to cut off funding for breast cancer screenings.
Ossoff charged that Karen Handel, while working as a top official at Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, worked to pull funding for screenings performed by Planned Parenthood.
"In 2012, you were discussing how you led the effort to defund breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood," Ossoff said in a June 6 debate with Handel, adding that she had "imposed her own views" while at Komen.
Ossoff, a former congressional aide, is running against Handel in the June 20 special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District in northern Atlanta, a historically Republican district.
During the debate, Handel pushed back by saying she had been instructed to develop options for disengaging from Planned Parenthood. She downplayed her personal role in the controversial decision, adding that no single employee would have been authorized to unilaterally pull funding. The Komen foundation reversed the move after public criticism.
"I was directed to come up with options for how the organization could disengage," she said. "It was a business decision ultimately decided by the board of Komen."
We decided to take a closer look at Ossoff’s claim that Handel said she had led the effort to defund breast cancer screenings.
Handel did a media interview shortly after her February 2012 resignation as the Komen foundation’s vice president of public policy. Her departure came after the group’s decision to pull Planned Parenthood’s breast cancer screening funding caused a firestorm.
First, Handel downplayed her personal role -- similarly to the way she pushed back in her debate with Ossoff. "I was part of (the) decision-making process," Handel told the reporter, "but I was not the sole decider."
But then Handel pivoted to her feelings about the role she played, saying, "I embrace the fact that I was involved in the project."
Finally, she said: "I embrace the fact that I led the project."
Ossoff said, "In 2012, you were discussing how you led the effort to defund breast cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood."
Handel did say that she led efforts, but she also said at the time that the decision wasn’t entirely hers, and that Komen’s board ultimately approved the move, which was later reversed.
We rate Ossoff’s statement Mostly True.
Debate between Jon Ossoff and Karen Handel, June 6, 2017
WSB-TV 2, "Karen Handel resigns after Planned Parenthood controversy," Feb. 7, 2012
Interview with Sacha Haworth, Senior Communications Adviser for the Ossoff Campaign, June 6, 2017
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