January is a time of year when the pro-life spotlight shines especially bright.
In an ironic coincidence, last month’s commemorations marking Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the landmark Supreme Court decisions that legalized abortion in 1973, coincide with Girl Scout cookie season in most areas of the country. This iconic organization and its fundraising product have become an increasing flashpoint for pro-lifers, as more and more become aware of the numerous concerns regarding the Girl Scout organization.
In January 2014, numerous pro-life groups organized a “cookiecott” that garnered significant media attention. Given the public’s increasing awareness and response to these concerns, one might reasonably assume that Girl Scouts USA would move away from the controversy. Instead, the organization continues to involve its members in abortion advocacy and promote women and organizations that advocate for abortion rights. Examples since 2014’s Cookiecott include:
- GSUSA’s membership, alongside the International Planned Parenthood Federation in the Coalition for Adolescent Girls, which includes “abortion-related care” among its goals.
- GSUSA’s continued relationship with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), supplying 2.8 of its 10 million members and more than $1.5 million in funding in 2014.
- WAGGGS’ participating in the 2014 World Conference on Youth. The delegation of 10 representatives included two GSUSA members and WAGGGS' senior advocacy coordinator, who was part of the International Youth Task Force advising on the content and policy for the conference. The outcome statement for the conference, shared on WAGGGS' website, demands "universal access to sexual and reproductive-health services and information" and "comprehensive sex education based on full and accurate information for all adolescents and youth." WAGGGS delegates drafted and delivered a similar statement at the United Nations’ 2014 Commission on the Status of Women as well.
- WAGGGS’ current involvement in shaping the U.N.'s post-2015 agenda. WAGGGS’ policy paper, "The World We Want for Girls Beyond 2015," states: “[A]ny goal on health in the post-2015 development agenda should include the specific needs of girls and young women with a particular emphasis on delivering confidential and non-judgmental sexual and reproductive-health information and services to all.” WAGGGS representatives in this effort, including a GSUSA member, list their focus and involvement in promoting sexual and reproductive rights in their biographies and goals.
- GSUSA’s proudly sharing The Huffington Post’s announcement of GSUSA’s “Portraits in Leadership” series, an article that highlights Nancy Pelosi and “strong supporter of women’s rights” Barbara Mikulski. Of the congresswomen presented to girls in this new GSUSA series, less than one-quarter defend life from the moment of conception.
These most recent examples are in addition to GSUSA’s continuing promotion in its curriculum and online resources of women and organizations that publicly advocate for abortion rights, including Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, the American Civil Liberties Union, Population Council, Amnesty International and WAGGGS.
Significant new voices joined the pro-life chorus sharing these concerns in the last year.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops confirms that “Girl Scouts’ relationship with WAGGGS, in view of particular WAGGGS positions and the matter of unrestricted membership dues, remains an area of concern” and determined the “possibility of local councils or troops collaborating with or forming a relationship with Planned Parenthood to be an area of serious concern,” among others.
The Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan., weighs in as well, citing “deep concerns about WAGGGS, the role models that are held up in the Girl Scout materials, website and blogs and the prudence of supporting and funneling our children into a worldview that is often in opposition to fundamental Catholic beliefs.”
The Archdiocese of St. Louis also cites specific concerns and states: “[O]ur faith can oftentimes set us apart from what is popular and trending in the world, so here we begin to feel that pull. While secular programs feel they must change with the culture to survive, Jesus calls us to stand in the truth.”
As the coverage on these concerns has increased over the years, Girl Scouts has suffered a devastating drop in membership of almost 30% and a sharp decline in merchandise revenue, which includes GSUSA’s trademarked cookies. Opportunities for wholesome and character-forming activities without any moral conflict are available in alternate girl organizations that are growing exponentially, such as American Heritage Girls (AHG) and Little Flowers Girls’ Club. In fact, AHG created a "Respect Life Patch" in 2014, which is selling more quickly than any other badge or patch in AHG’s 20-year history.
Let’s continue to keep the spotlight shining on all assaults to the sanctity of life, even in the most unlikely and unfortunate places like the Girl Scouts organization. Armed with the knowledge that this element continues to infiltrate this once-laudable organization, families and customers continue to say, “No thank you.”
Ann Saladin writes from St. Louis. She is the author of the website MyGirlScoutCouncil.com.