WASHINGTON, February 19, 2014 — The Girl Scouts have undergone what they describe as a “complete transformation” starting in 2003 in order to make their programs and image more relevant to a diverse population.
That transformation may have accelerated rather than slowed the tide of girls leaving the program, defectors citing the program’s growing liberalism. Membership has dropped over 20 percent in the last decade with no end in sight.
“In trying to be more relevant, they’ve gone too far the other way,” says Cheryl Brown, former CEO of a Girl Scout council in Arkansas.
Pro-life organizations agree. Over the past weeks, national pro-life organizations have called for a national “cookiecott” of Girl Scout cookies, claiming that the Girl Scouts USA promotes a pro-abortion ideology.
GSUSA emphatically denies that charge, and the charge that it has any connection to Planned Parenthood.
However, as early as 2004, then-Girl Scout CEO Kathy Cloninger confirmed in a Today Show interview that Girl Scouts works with Planned Parenthood nationally. “We have relationships with our church communities, with YWCAs, and with Planned Parenthood organizations across the country, to bring information-based sex education programs to girls,” said Cloninger.
Cloninger reconfirmed this in an interview at Harvard in 2007. “And I feel like we cannot be the nation’s expert on girl issues without dealing with how issues of sexuality affect the girls of this nation. We believe parents are part of the discussion, but girl scouting needs to be part of education and discussion as well.”
Politifact.com of Texas says it was asked to check the accuracy of the claim that GSUSA promotes “pro-abortion women as icons for our children to emulate.” It concluded that the charge is inaccurate because the Girls Scout guide does not specify “any woman’s activism per abortion as a reason for singling her out.”
That logic is nonsense. Holding up women as role models while hiding their history as abortion leaders only makes the selections dishonest, not unbiased.
American Life League — the nation’s oldest Catholic pro-life group — and other pro-life organizations did not get it wrong. Unfortunately, the bigger story may actually be worse.
ALL double-checked its own facts and found that of the 11 women discussed with the PolitiFact writer, 80-89 percent are not only pro-abortion, but are celebrated pro-abortion leaders.
GSUSA selections include Betty Friedan, the founder of NARAL Prochoice; Pauli Murray, a founding member of the radically pro-abortion NOW; Rosa Parks, a past member of Planned Parenthood’s Board of Advocates, and two women (Hillary Clinton and Dolores Huerta) who won the Margaret Sanger Award “for leadership, excellence, and outstanding contributions to the reproductive health and rights movement.”
When asked about the imbalance, Kelly Parisi, spokeswoman for the New York-based Girl Scouts, said, “We’re not trying to be balanced because we’re not trying to promote a political agenda. We don’t vet these women based on their political beliefs.” She continued, “We are a nonpartisan, nonpolitical organization.”
Some critics say that is just parsing words.
“The Girl Scouts’ ‘no position’ means it is perfectly happy to promote well-known abortion rights activists as role models like Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Geraldine Ferraro (and on and on) as long as that woman has done some other good deed alongside her advocacy for the right to kill innocent children in the womb,” says Christy Volanski, a former troop leader whose two ex-scout daughters founded the website SpeakNowGirlScouts.com.
She continued, “It does not mean they refrain from engaging in these issues; it means they are totally ‘indifferent’ to the sanctity of life in the womb and the dignity of marriage. And I find that very sad.”
Parisi’s also stated that the Girl Scouts “believe [abortion] is a private matter for girls and their families.” That is not only at odds with Cloninger, it does not address why local troops openly work with abortion advocates and providers.
According to the Catholic News Agency, “The Girl Scouts have filled their national leadership team and board of directors with unwavering ideologues whose careers, nonprofit work, and philanthropic choices reflect a hefty commitment to liberal causes — same-sex marriage, gay and lesbian rights, abortion rights, comprehensive sex education, and ‘girl power’ feminism.”
Parisi is an example: Prior to GSUSA, she was vice president of marketing and communications for pro-abortion Ms. Foundation for Women. MFW lists “reproductive rights and health” as a top priority. While there, Parisi reportedly channeled her outrage “at women’s inequality and gender injustice” that she saw daily and was proud of her work in MFW helping Planned Parenthood to attack Susan G. Komen.
GSUSA’s current $393,000 CEO, Anna Maria Chavez, who succeeded Cloninger in 2011, has long been associated with pro-abortion politicians and policymakers.
GSUSA’s tack to the social left also includes an “all inclusive” policy that contains “insistence on being a voice for all girls, regardless of their … sexual orientation, or gender identity.”
Deb Taft, chief development officer at GSUSA, serves on the national board of governors for the Human Rights Campaign, the biggest gay lobby in the nation. She chaired HRC’s 2010 and 2011 New England Gala Dinners.
But put aside GSUSA leadership associations — if GSUSA is neutral on abortion, how can it refuse “to allow pro-life advocacy to count towards badge work” but “reproductive health” advocacy is specified as meeting GSUSA leadership program objectives?
GSUSA is the largest member and therefore a $1.4 million financial supporter to WAGGGS, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. WAGGGS seeks “To rapidly improve the status of the girl child … especially on sexual and reproductive health and rights.”
Once again, GSUSA dismisses the association as meaningless.
The more we look at the fundamental transformation of the Girl Scouts, the more it looks like another fundamental transformation that is not what most Americans bargained for.
Paul Rondeau is an independent social commentator and president of Synapse Associates, a conservative communication, training, and consulting firm.