Girl Scouts USA Continues Its Ideological Game

The Girl Scouts organization continues to strengthen its ties to ideologies at odds with Church teaching.

A young participant holds a sign in the Women's March on Washington in 2017.
A young participant holds a sign in the Women's March on Washington in 2017. (photo: Credit: ‘Liz Lemon’, Public Domain, via Flickr and Wikimedia Commons)

Ideological politics, particularly centered on the issue of abortion, feels like an inexhaustible constant these days, injected in even the most unlikely places.

Sadly, the Girl Scouts of America have added abortion advocacy to its agenda that, despite claims of being a non-partisan, non-political nonprofit organization, has escalated beyond the point of any dismissal this past year.

While this troubling presence has been expanding within the Girl Scouts for years, a significant (albeit shrinking) number of Catholics continue their unsuspecting support of an organization that has changed drastically over its 100-year history.

For many, support is an automatic yes: The invitation to join may come through their Catholic school; most moms were Girl Scouts and hope their daughters will enjoy the same camp, craft and cookie-selling experiences; and the point of contact is the troop leader, usually a class mom volunteering with the best of intentions but uninformed of the direction the organization has taken in more recent years.

What’s less readily apparent is the problematic ideology and activism that has infiltrated the Girl Scouts since the days these mothers wore their own green vests. Yet troubling concerns persist at every interconnected level of the organization.

Across the country, local councils involved the Girl Scout brand and the members in partisan and political advocacy. A 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign ad featuring Mrs. Clinton and uniformed Girl Scouts, filmed at a Girl Scouts of Kentucky’s Wilderness Road council shop, has been widely shared on Mrs. Clinton’s social media accounts. Immediately following the presidential election, Girl Scouts of Greater New York partnered in protesting President-elect Donald Trump. More recently, Girls Scouts of Northern California celebrated Girl Scouts participation in the pro-abortion rights Women’s March.   

Additionally, all Girl Scout councils sell Girl Scouts USA’s official curriculum series for girl members, which promotes prominent pro-abortion women and organizations, including Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Population Council among many, many others. Further, all Girl Scout councils and individual troops continue to be permitted to partner with their local Planned Parenthood.

On a national level, Girl Scouts USA (GSUSA) encouraged and celebrated girls participation (in uniform) in the Women’s March, a vulgar and profanity-laden event that clearly stated “safe, legal, and affordable abortion and birth control for all people” among its core principles.  

In addition to the troubling role models presented to the girls throughout the GSUSA created curriculum series, GSUSA also maintains memberships in pro-abortion organizations such as the Coalition for Adolescent Girls and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS).

WAGGGS, the international level of Girl Scouts, counts every Girl Scout among its 10 million members, and receives over $1 million annually from GSUSA based on the number of registered Girl Scouts. GSUSA, the largest and founding member of WAGGGS, states “we are active partners in a worldwide sisterhood through our affiliation with WAGGGS. We work with WAGGGS to address the needs of girls and to build a network of global citizens.”

WAGGGS’ 2016 involvement in sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) advocacy builds on its efforts over many years. WAGGGS delegates, “supported by 10 million members globally, spoke out for the rights of girls and women everywhere at the 60th session of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women” (CSW). WAGGGS, alongside other abortion-rights advocates YWCA, Plan International and UNFPA, organized and participated in the first ever CSW Youth Forum, which included “young women’s sexual and reproductive rights” among issues to address. The “Youth Agreed Conclusions“ of this event demand “universal access to a range of reproductive health services, including safe and effective voluntary contraceptives, maternal health care, safe and legal abortion [and] sexuality education, including information on all sexual orientations and gender identities, that is free of religious intolerance, based on gender equality and human rights, that promotes a positive, healthy and pleasurable sex life, for youth.”

WAGGGS also participated in the 2016 Women Deliver Conference, which focused on “health — in particular maternal, sexual, and reproductive health and rights.” Content for the conference included “Safe Abortion as a Human Right,” “Safe Abortion Saves Women’s Lives,” “The Elephant in the Room: What About Abortion,” and keynote speakers Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards and Catholics for Choice founder Frances Kissling. WAGGGS participated in a discussion on improving the effectiveness of youth advocacy for SRHR, and posted frequent updates and a live link to the conference for girl members to follow.

As the Girl Scout organization strengthens its ties to an ideology increasingly at odds with Church teaching, more bishops are offering guidance in this area through communicating concerns or suggesting alternative organizations such as American Heritage Girls (who, by the way, led the Pledge of Allegiance at the 2017 March for Life) or Little Flowers Girls Club.

Clergy and laity are responding to these growing concerns, and to the guidance of the bishops. Girl Scout membership numbers are in steep decline, while numbers climb among the other girl organizations.

More and more consumers are saying “no thank you“ to cookies, as concerns rise regarding the millions of dollars in royalty fees paid to GSUSA from every box of cookies produced.

As more Catholics recognize what the Girl Scout vests (and cookies!) of today fully represent, may more parishes replace their invitations to the secular, progressive Girl Scouts with invitations to these Christ-centered organizations that complement, rather than conflict with, the pro-life, pro-family teachings of the Church.

Ann Saladin writes from St. Louis. She is the author of the website