Commentary Abortion

Anti-Choicers Trying to Drum Up Anti-Girl Scout Sentiment Again

Amanda Marcotte

A new website purporting to "expose" the Girl Scouts' supposedly secret abortion agenda accidentally exposes something else: The way the anti-choice movement uses abortion as a cover story to oppose women's rights and even girls' education.

The anti-choice movement’s expanding suspicion that the entire world is out to get it has grown to a point where anti-choicers are warning parents to avoid the Girl Scouts. While most of us think of the Girl Scouts as a wholesome organization devoted to building up girls’ skills and self-esteem, the anti-choice movement has taken to insinuating that your daughter is going to get a badge in “abortion orgies” if she joins up. (In all honesty, the “building up girls’ skills and self-esteem” is likely what’s really bothering the right in these days of panicking about women and girls excelling in school in record numbers. But as with religious fundamentalists around the world, fear of sex is grafted onto every excuse to attack the rights of women and girls to education and employment.)

Now there’s a new website to help conservative parents seeking to know more about how local chapters are connected to pro-choice organizations called My Girl Scout Council.

The mainstream anti-choice movement knows that it can’t reveal its true agenda—trying to reverse women’s march towards equality by using forced childbirth and sexual shame as weapons—too boldly, so the official line on why their followers are supposed to hate the Girl Scouts is the disingenuous claim that abortion is “murder.” Are the Girl Scouts aborting any pregnancies? No. Giving money to terminate pregnancies? No. Taking a stand on the issue of legal abortion? Nope. But, as usual with anti-choicers, there’s no stretch too far. Take LifeSiteNews’ coverage of this new website. The coverage opens with, “The pro-life movement has been concerned for a number of years about the ties between the Girl Scouts and the Planned Parenthood abortion business.”

There are three solid attempts to deceive in that sentence (for people who claim to have the moral high ground, anti-choicers sure do lie a lot!). One, the “ties” between Planned Parenthood and the Girl Scouts are mostly a figment of paranoid right-wing imagination, and include trying to hold the entire Girl Scout organization responsible because one group had a meeting in a room that had previously been used by an HIV prevention group that had accidentally left a pamphlet behind. (Yes, they’re that desperate.) Individual troops may reach out to Planned Parenthood, but the larger organization doesn’t have these “ties.” Two, the claim that Planned Parenthood is an “abortion business,” as if abortion is the bulk of their work, when it only constitutes 3 percent of their services. And three, the claim that Planned Parenthood is a “business,” when it is a nonprofit.

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Despite the attempts to deceive right up top, the quote from Ann Saladin, the woman who started My Girl Scout Council, makes it clear that this isn’t about “life,” but about a fear of female sexuality—which is in and of itself a cover story for fearing female independence.

“I wish a resource like this had been available when I was first contemplating my own daughter’s Girl Scout membership,” Saladin explained to LifeSiteNews. “I had no idea that her membership, and the financial contributions solicited through her council, were supporting the international scouting organization, WAGGGS, which aggressively pushes for sexual and reproductive health and rights for girls around the world while representing its 10 million members.”

They fight for the health and rights of the girls they claim to represent. How horrible. Well, if you don’t think girls deserve health and rights it is.

Going to the website itself confirms that Saladin’s main concern isn’t some kind of misplaced fear that embryos are the same thing as children, but that girls who join the Girl Scouts might inadvertently pick up the belief that they are whole human beings who own their own bodies and deserve full human rights. While the site purports to have information about each individual troop, every individual troop link goes to the same document, with the only modification being that Saladin copy and pasted the troop’s name into the headline and first paragraph.

Even if you oppose legal abortion, the attempts to prove that the Girl Scouts has a secret pro-choice agenda are laughably inept—mostly attempts to create guilt by association, including claiming that Girl Scouts should never link an article about any topic if it’s been published in any publication that has published abortion-supportive articles. It’s clear that “abortion” is just a scare word sprinkled throughout to drive up fears that Girl Scouts might have a viewpoint that comes anywhere close to the belief that women might have a greater role on earth than being helpmeets for husbands.

Saladin is concerned that Girl Scouts USA (GSUSA) is part of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), and because some of the groups around the world are more aggressively progressive than GSUSA, there’s supposedly guilt by association. GSUSA also has associations with organizations and individuals who believe women are full human beings and may even call themselves feminists. Shocking, I know. Why would an organization that’s supposed to be “for girls” actually produce programs promoting the well-being of girls?

Saladin is extremely irritated, for instance, that GSUSA participates in World Thinking Day, a day set aside by WAGGGS in order to promote the education of girls around the world. Saladin, at least, knows better than to just complain about the promotion of girls’ education, so instead she tries to create a chain of guilt by association that is pretty hard to follow: WAGGGS has done work with groups that promote the rights of youth around the world. Those rights include the right to sexual health care, including safe abortion access, and comprehensive sex education. Therefore, by participating in an event promoting education by a group that has worked with other groups that promote sexual health, GSUSA has “sexual health” cooties. Voila! You can’t support girls’ education without sex and abortion. Yes, it’s exhausting. I suspect it’s meant to be: The hope is by piling on a bunch of nonsensical guilt-by-association sex panic arguments, the reader won’t notice that Saladin’s trying to drum up outrage that scouts are being taught to respect the importance of getting an education.

The same strategy is used throughout the document: Thin guilt-by-association sex panic arguments that are confusing and whose only purpose seems to be overwhelming the reader into not realizing that the Girl Scouts is really “guilty” of promoting girls’ education, women’s history, and the idea that women have things to contribute besides just being wives and mothers. It seems by attempting to delude readers into thinking that the Girl Scouts has a “secret” agenda, Saladin has accidentally revealed that it’s the anti-choice movement who, in reality, has a poorly kept secret: That they are more opposed to women’s rights than they are supportive of fetal life.

Commentary Abortion

STOKING FIRE: Anti-Choice Boycotts Continue, but Will Businesses Continue to Give In?

Eleanor J. Bader

Boycotts and harassment tactics have an impact, even if it’s not the impact the anti-choicers would like. When businesses submit to antiabortion browbeating, it forces clinicians to scramble to find new suppliers, diverts attention from the provision of care, and exacerbates tensions and anxieties.

A little more than a year ago, the evangelical Christian group, Repent America, kicked off a campaign against Stericycle, a national medical waste disposal company. The goal? To cripple abortion clinics by making it impossible for them to dispose of fetal remains, sharps, and other surgical throwaways. The organization calls Stericycle “a modern-day Auschwitz” and equates the company with German businesses that supported Hitler’s genocidal policies.

“Government entities, police forces, military troops, and even civilians from a number of countries aided the Nazis in the destruction of the Jewish people,” their website begins. “Some supplied construction materials and funds to the Nazi military. Some provided lists of names of Jewish people in their countries. Some helped to gather and deport Jews onto freight trains.” Moving into the present, the site rails that “today in America a diabolical silence and the mass annihilation of unwanted persons remains in our midst…It is because of companies like Stericycle that abortionists are able to operate.”

This rhetorical flourish—and the concomitant ratcheting up references to the “abortion holocaust”–have played well for anti-choicers since no company wants to be publically likened to Nazi collaborators. Michael Marcavage, head of Repent America, obviously understood this when he launched the boycott. Not only that, since Stericycle rented trucks from Penske and Ryder, the campaign also zeroed in on them. Both quickly folded and in 2011 stopped allowing their trucks to service abortion facilities. The campaign is currently focused on AimNationaLease for the same reason. According to Repent America, Aim “allows Stericycle to use its trucks to collect the remains of aborted babies and the items used in killing them.”

Boycotts, of course, are a tried-and-true progressive tactic and have successfully protested everything from unfair labor practices to homophobia. But what’s good for the goose has proved good for the gander and the Right—always eager to appropriate winning strategies —has gravitated to the boycott full throttle.

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This isn’t wholly new. Indeed, on a local level anti-abortion activists have threatened landlords, rental agents, construction crews, and delivery services since shortly after the Roe decision. At the same time, it wasn’t until 2003–when Chris Danze, an Austin, Texas, concrete foundation contractor, organized Texas Contractors and Suppliers for Life–that the full muscle of anti-choice boycotting was exerted. At that time Planned Parenthood was in the throes of building a new $6.2 million clinic in Austin and had hired the Browning Construction Company as general contractor. Danze told The National Catholic Register that he and his group opposed the “sexual mayhem and killing of unborn children” that they believe Planned Parenthood represents. A well-publicized boycott of contractors affiliated with the health center paid off; shortly after the groundbreaking, Browning pulled out of the project.

“The boycott did not stop Planned Parenthood in Austin from being erected but it delayed it,” says Vicki Saporta, President and CEO of the National Abortion Federation. “It made it more difficult and expensive for the clinic to be built.”

What’s more, anti-abortion boycotts have expanded into other arenas, targeting any-and-all businesses that interact with providers. Lori Williams, clinic director at Little Rock Family Planning Services [lrfps.com], got a taste of this in January 2012 when Welsco, an oxygen and nitrous oxide company that the clinic had worked with for 15 years, suddenly informed her that they would no longer supply the health center. “The owner said that due to negative publicity Welsco couldn’t continue to work with us,” she reports. “He would not elaborate but said that I should go to the Internet and Google it. I did and found a photo of a Welsco truck at the clinic with commentary calling Welsco a business supporting abortion. Thom Huey, one of our regular protesters, had waged a one-man campaign to stop them from delivering to us. Apparently, he got a very quick reaction.”

Williams says that she was flabbergasted by Welsco’s capitulation and strenuously objected to the company’s demand that she immediately return the gas tanks. “I said, ‘No, you’re not going to do this. I paid for the gas and I’ll return the canisters when they’re empty or I have another supplier,'” she continues. An altercation with police, a lawsuit, and numerous attempts to secure a new supplier followed. “There were five companies that flat-out said they would not be involved with abortion, but we eventually found a company and now have a one year contract with them,” she adds.

Amy Hagstrom Miller, Founder, President, and CEO of the Whole Woman’s Health Center chain, has also felt the sting of anti-abortion pressure. After she discovered that Stericycle had improperly disposed of fetal remains, she fired the firm and began searching for a replacement. Waste Management Inc., a huge national company, was hired. “They signed a contract with me to pick up at my five Texas clinics, but only took one shipment from Austin before they said they couldn’t continue.”

Although Hagstrom Miller has been working with a local vendor ever since, she describes what happened to Whole Woman as extremely troubling. What’s more, she acknowledges that when businesses submit to antiabortion browbeating, it forces clinicians to scramble to find new suppliers, diverts attention from the provision of care, and exacerbates tensions and anxieties.

I’ve never met Michael Muscavage or Chris Danze but I imagine these realities please both of them. In the end they know—as we do—that boycotts and the threat of bad publicity often work.

“Boycotts and harassment tactics have an impact, even if it’s not the impact the antis would like,” NAF’s Vicki Saporta concludes. ”These actions don’t close clinics or stop new ones from being built, but they can still be very disruptive. This undoubtedly explains why they’re increasingly being used.”

Indeed, Life Decisions International has compiled The Boycott List, a roster of companies that they say aid-and-abet Planned Parenthood. The eclectic line-up includes dozens of organizations and businesses, among them AOL, Bank of America, Bayer, Chevron, Girl Scouts of America, Human Rights Watch, The Kiwanis Club, The March of Dimes, Wells Fargo, Whole Foods, and the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

Commentary Sexuality

Scouting a New Path: Girl Scouts of America Creates Inclusive Gender Policy

Avital Norman Nathman

I know for a fact that I will be doubling my order of Thin Mints this year in support of a national organization that welcomes, supports, and empowers all girls.

A few months ago, the Girl Scouts of America (GSUSA) found themselves in the midst of a unique controversy. A Denver, Colorado troop initially refused to let 7-year-old Bobby Montoya join. Montoya, who identifies as female, was denied entry to the troop when Felisha Archuleta, Bobby’s mother, first approached them. After protests from Archuleta, and some media coverage, the Colorado Girl Scouts of America ended up welcoming Bobby into the scouts, and released a statement through GLAAD, clarifying the organizations policy:

“Girl Scouts is an inclusive organization and we accept all girls in Kindergarten through 12th grade as members. […] If a child identifies as a girl and the child’s family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout.”

However, not everyone associated with the scouts agreed with this message of inclusivity. Just last month, three troops in Louisiana have disbanded over this policy when their troop leaders resigned from their positions. One of the former troop leaders, Susan Bryant-Snure, claimed that the message from the GSUSA is “extremely confusing,” and that it “goes against what we (Northlake Christian School) believe.”

In addition to disbanding some troops, thereby not allowing any girl in these area the opportunity to join the scouts, some parents are calling on a cookie boycott to protest the GSUSA’s inclusion of transgender girls into their organization. With a video quickly going viral, a 14-year-old girl, identified as Taylor from California, speaks on behalf of the group, Honest Girl Scouts, and is calling for a boycott of Girl Scout cookies.

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Not only is this video filled with an inaccurate description of transgender, but it does not seem to be espousing any of the Girl Scout values that I learned as a young scout. Compassion, diversity, education, and tolerance were all values that I, and my fellow troop members, held dear. In fact, part of the Girl Scout mission includes the following, “Girl Scouting helps girls develop their full individual potential; relate to others with increasing understanding, skill, and respect.”

To call for a boycott of cookies based on a decision to become more inclusive on the part of the GSUSA seems to go against everything the organization actually stands for.

I spoke with Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter, a book that takes a look at modern girlhood. Orenstein weighed in on the current Girl Scout issue.

“If you start regulating what is a “girl” and what it is not, you quickly devolve into something really ugly. Think about the controversy over Caster Semenya, the South African runner whose sex was called into question because she was “too fast” for a girl. That was shameful. But what’s next? Should a girl born with no uterus be barred from Scouting? What about one with no ovaries? Should we test chromosomes to make sure there are no girls with Turner’s syndrome (meaning they have only one X chromosome)? What about girls who are chromosomally male but appear (and identify as) totally female because they don’t respond to their male hormones? Obviously, this particular issue affects few girls; the radical Right is using it to create a sex panic, to further its own agenda of intolerance and homophobia. By picking on little girls with cookies. That is so sad.”

For the most part, the video has ended up having the opposite affect. Instead of encouraging people to participate in the boycott, it has actually spurred many more folks to support the GSUSA by buying more cookies this year. Crystal Harvey, mother of two young girls from Massachusetts, shares her reaction to the video, “I honestly feel really sorry for that girl, that she’s been raised so bigoted and small minded. But on the other hand, I now have a really good reason to buy their cookies!!”

I know for a fact that I, too, will be doubling my order of Thin Mints this year in support of a national organization that welcomes, supports, and empowers all girls.