The Girl Scouts’ Law insists that Girl Scouts be “responsible for what I say and do.” When it comes to abortion, however, the Girl Scouts USA “says” the magic words that keep pro-life members in the fold (i.e. that Girl Scouts “does not take a position” on sexuality, birth control, or abortion).
What they “do” behind the scenes is another story.
GSUSA’s hefty brand power—and funding—continue to fuel the pro-abortion advocacy of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (“WAGGGS”). And the Girl Scouts have refused once again to take responsibility for that.
I recently exchanged emails with two Girl Scouts USA spokespersons, Joshua Ackley and Michelle Tompkins, asking them to clarify the Girl Scouts’ “no position” stance in light of WAGGGS’ leadership on the pro-abortion Bali Global Youth Forum Declaration (December, 2012). Their responses highlight GSUSA’s corporate unwillingness to take any actions to distance themselves from WAGGGS’ global advocacy for youth “sexual rights” and abortion—even though WAGGGS claims to speak for all its members, including GSUSA.
First, realize how radical the Bali Youth Declaration really is: it asserts “sexual rights” for youth (including 10 year-olds) on nearly every page and demands, over a dozen times, youth access to “abortion” or “reproductive rights” and services. It marginalizes families—decrying parental consent and “age of consent” restrictions in sexual and reproductive matters—and casts religious objections to LBGT lifestyles as “religious intolerance.” Not surprisingly, the pro-abortion chorus embraces the Declaration.
There’s more to know about the Bali Declaration, but what’s most relevant here are the architects behind its design.
The Declaration reflects the handiwork of the Global Youth Forum’s International Steering Committee, a group stacked with abortion providers and abortion-advocacy groups, such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and the Youth Coalition.
Who else’s fingerprints are all over the Declaration? WAGGGS.
WAGGGS was heavily invested in formulating the Declaration. Its leaders, including WAGGGS’ Senior Advocacy Coordinator, not only served on the Forum’s Steering Committee, but also worked for six months on the Taskforces that shaped the conference agenda, the resulting Declaration, and follow-up activities. At the Bali summit, WAGGGS representatives facilitated breakout sessions and presented youth “recommendations” to the plenary sessions. Now WAGGGS promotes the Declaration and advocates for its implementation.
So that leaves the Girl Scouts with a problem.
In light of their officially neutral position on abortion, it should have been a no-brainer for the Girl Scouts to repudiate the radical, pro-abortion Bali Declaration. Or at least to clarify that WAGGGS’ does not speak for GSUSA when it advocates on sexual and reproductive matters, including the Bali Declaration.
GSUSA refused to do either.
GSUSA informed me that, “GSUSA does not have an official position on the Bali Global Youth Forum Declaration,” and demurred further comment because “the lengthy declaration deals with very complex issues… [and] deserves a thorough review.”
There’s nothing “complex” about the Declaration’s aggressive push for abortion and youth sexual rights.
GSUSA reiterated that it “does not take a position on abortion” and asserted generally that, “all [WAGGGS] members reserve the right to have their own positions on certain topics.” But when I requested documentation that WAGGGS members “reserve the right” to differ on advocacy positions, GSUSA produced an off-point WAGGGS memorandum discussing programming decisions, not advocacy.
The WAGGGS memo states, “Member organizations engage with WAGGGS’ programmes in a number of ways, from helping develop and piloting them, to integrating them into their national programmes, to not using them at all. As a membership organization, it is entirely at the members’ discretion what programmes they use and how they are implemented.” This “discretion” clearly applies to program implementation not WAGGGS advocacy. WAGGGS’ advocacy positions are adopted and implemented on behalf of the entire organization. (See below.)
(Incidentally, the WAGGGS document supplied by GSUSA also falsely claims that, “There are many issues WAGGGS does not have a position on, including abortion; nor does WAGGGS have a partnership with Planned Parenthood International.” For GSUSA to put forth this document while discussing WAGGGS’ and IPPF collaboration in Bali and WAGGGS’ open support for abortion and youth sexual rights is laughable.)
A Damning Silence on Abortion
My email to GSUSA underscored WAGGGS’ strong support for the Bali Declaration—including its abortion advocacy—and asked, “If the Girl Scouts USA does not support the Youth Declaration, or portions of it (please specify), will the GSUSA publicly repudiate WAGGGS’ claim that it speaks for 10 million members, including Girl Scouts USA, in its advocacy for the Youth Declaration?”
GSUSA spokesperson Joshua Ackley replied, “Regarding how we use our voice, GSUSA will use its voice in a fashion that we believe constructively contributes to the conversation. We have in the past and we will continue to share our positions with our sister organizations in WAGGGS.”
It’s not hard to see why.
The Girl Scouts USA and WAGGGS have a long history of interlocking financial ties, brand alignment, and collaborative activities. (And GSUSA’s leadership team syncs well, ideologically, with WAGGGS’ advocacy positions.) GSUSA wields outsize influence in WAGGGS because of its status as founding member, its membership (GSUSA’s 2.3 million girls members constitute nearly one-fourth of WAGGGS’ “10 million” members), and GSUSA’s contributions of money, resources, and talent.
The Deputy Chairman of WAGGGS, for example, is USA representative Sapreet Saluja, who rose to leadership through U.S. Girl Scout Councils. The Girl Scouts’ New York headquarters plays host when WAGGGS delegates advocate at the U.N. for abortion and sexual rights. And GSUSA money flows generously to WAGGGS: GSUSA pays over a million dollars annually to WAGGGS for its “membership quota” and leans on young girls, from Daisies to Ambassadors, to donate to WAGGGS through “World Thinking Day” fundraisers and Juliette Low Fund contributions, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars for WAGGGS’ coffers. Girl Scouts USA also supports WAGGGS through a private foundation GSUSA created expressly for WAGGGS, funding world centers that offer WAGGGS seminars and teach girls to ‘take action’ for adolescent sexual and reproductive rights.
Actions Speak Louder
No Girl Scout in America could miss the closeness of the relationship between GSUSA and WAGGGS. That close relationship, coupled with WAGGGS’ ardent advocacy for sexual and reproductive rights and the Girl Scouts’ refusal to disown WAGGGS’ handiwork (the Bali Declaration) raises some questions: does GSUSA do anything to prevent its brand power, funds, and resources from supporting WAGGGS’ global advocacy for sexual rights and abortion? Corporate responsibility demands as much. After all, GSUSA stakes its relationship with families and churches on the credibility of its promise to ‘take no position’ on sexuality and abortion.
The bottom line: Beyond its thin disclaimer (GSUSA “does not take a position”), GSUSA appears to do nothing to ensure that the funding, brand reputation, and practical support it provides to WAGGGS are not used to support WAGGGS’ pro-abortion and sexual rights advocacy.
GSUSA: The Silent Gorilla
WAGGGS routinely claims that its advocacy represents the voice of all its members—not a subset. For example, in July 2012, World Board Chair Nadine El Achy highlighted the advocacy of “WAGGGS delegates at [the U.N Conference] Rio+20” who “represented each one of our WAGGGS members: YOU - in this process.” (The WAGGGS delegates at Rio lobbied for “sexual and reproductive health rights.”)
According to its World Conference reports and World Board statements, WAGGGS embraced “a new image and new positioning” in 2008, embarking on a global advocacy “agenda.” WAGGGS’ advocacy positions are framed by its World Board, confirmed during worldwide Conferences (with GSUSA present and participating), and referenced in annual statements. They are promoted on behalf of the entire membership, not Balkanized subsets.
The Girl Scouts know this.
In its communications with me, GSUSA could not offer any instance when WAGGGS qualified its sexual and reproductive rights advocacy by stating that it only represents 7.7 million members (10 million general membership minus 2.3 million GSUSA girls) on issues related to sexuality and reproduction.
It has never happened. And it won’t, because GSUSA is the silent gorilla in the room when WAGGGS speaks at the UN or at global events. It’s a gorilla with financial heft (GSUSA’s budget is twenty times the size of WAGGGS’ budget) and chummy connections to the Obama administration, whose global agenda supports abortion and family planning worldwide.
If GSUSA really objected to being included under the WAGGGS’ advocacy umbrella, which promotes sexual and reproductive rights on behalf all “10 million” members, GSUSA lawyers would lock down WAGGGS’ representations in a heartbeat, to protect the Girl Scouts’ costly re-branding efforts.
So I asked spokeswoman Michelle Tompkins if GSUSA had ever asked WAGGGS to ‘cease and desist’—to stop representing itself as the voice of its entire membership, including GSUSA, when WAGGGS advocates for sexual and reproductive rights. I also inquired whether GSUSA sought assurances from WAGGGS that “no funds which GSUSA provides to WAGGGS (whether as its membership quotas, World Thinking Day contributions, proceeds from merchandise sales, training and travel fees) shall be used to support WAGGGS advocacy on sexual and reproductive rights.” Finally, I asked whether GSUSA had taken its own steps “to ensure that GSUSA funds do not end up supporting WAGGGS’ advocacy” for abortion.
GSUSA bobbed and weaved. Spokeswoman Michelle Tompkins first replied, “This is going to take quite a while to review because it gets into the bylaws of WAGGGS and many other areas.” (Note: I checked. WAGGGS by-laws don’t apply.) I clarified that my question was factual: whether GSUSA has in fact made any requests or instituted any structural measures to ensure that GSUSA does not fund WAGGGS’ abortion advocacy.
GSUSA’s response: those questions are “under review.” And GSUSA is in no hurry, because, “we have quite few things on our plate right now and resources are limited.”
The reality is this: GSUSA has not once objected to WAGGGS’ global advocacy on sexual and reproductive issues, nor to WAGGGS’ claims to represent its entire membership, including GSUSA, on those issues. They refuse to disown even WAGGGS’ most radical pro-abortion efforts (e.g., the Bali Youth Declaration). And they continue to fund and support WAGGGS’ global megaphone, as it amplifies “progressive” messages promoting adolescent abortion and youth sexual rights.
They will do nothing to impede or even distance themselves from WAGGGS’ pro-abortion, pro-contraception, “sexual rights” advocacy.
Those GSUSA assurances that it “does not take a position” on abortion and birth control? Lip service.
I’m really not surprised that GSUSA won’t make a serious effort to ensure that its assets, reputation, and financial contributions are not used to support WAGGGS’ global advocacy on sex and reproduction.
But I am astounded that pro-life families—and sponsoring churches—are willing to go along with that.