January 18, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Cathy Ruse’s article yesterday urging pro-life and pro-family advocates not to buy Girl Scouts of America (GSA) cookies, both because of the organization’s ties to Planned Parenthood and an overall “progressive” agenda, has ignited quite the debate. Not only is the article LifeSiteNews’ most read article of the week, it has also drawn an enormous amount of commentary, both supportive and critical.

Lots of readers agree that GSA’s ties to Planned Parenthood disqualify its cookie initiative from receiving support, while others argue it’s unfair to tar the whole organization with the actions of some GSA bureaucrats and councils, pointing out that the pro-abortion activism doesn’t necessarily (and often doesn’t) filter down to many of the individual troops, which still do a lot of good. One impassioned reader wrote:

I am a Girl Scout leader and I can attest to the fact that I have never heard of any comments about pro-choice or abortion rights from my council or anyone else in the organization and this is certainly not talked about with the girls. We are an all volunteer organization and there are some people that have made mistakes with certain topics, but we are not all that way and certainly do not all support abortion.

The first thing worth noting is that Cathy didn’t say Girl Scouts should get no support at all, but confined her remarks to the cookie sale, pointing out that most of the funds don’t even go to the local troop (troops receive as little as 10% of the profit). Instead, they fund Girl Scout councils or the head office, where the problems originate. 

Hence the question that immediately occurred to me after reading Cathy’s article was, would it be all right to directly support your local girl scout troop, in lieu of buying cookies?

But the whole thing might remind some of the “fungibility” problem we see in the Planned Parenthood tax-funding debate: even though they are technically forbidden from using our money for the objectionable stuff (i.e. abortions), any support at all means we’re freeing up money for the organization to do those things we disagree with. Some might say this is what funding any part of GSA amounts to as well.

However, I’m not sure I buy that, since Girl Scouts isn’t a business the way Planned Parenthood is: it’s an organization with largely autonomous troops, with the character of the individual troops largely determined by volunteer troop leaders and the girls in the troop. The direct financial relationship between the cookies initiative and the GSA hierarchy is obvious: but I see no such relationship when giving money to a local troop. Will such money end up at the head office, and ultimately at Planned Parenthood? It seems unlikely.

Click “like” if you want to end abortion!

In fact, to me there might be a valid argument that getting involved with and supporting your local Girl Scout troop is a good way to protect it from some of the nonsense coming from head office. Of course, if you know that the leadership of your local troop is already taking its cues on social issues from head office, then it might be better not to support that troop, and to support an alternative, unless it looks like there is some hope for change in the troop.

My fear is that in this case the “spotlight fallacy” may be at work: that is, we may be judging the whole organization based upon a few high-profile instances of pro-abortion activism by a small, if powerful, segment of the organization. But just because the GSA leadership is promoting abortion rights at the UN doesn’t mean that your local troop has in any way contributed to that initiative. 

Hence, the question seems to come down to just how systemic the rot in GSA is. Is it so widespread that the whole organization is compromised, or is it contained enough that we can work in good conscience with the good sections, ensuring that no anti-life rot enters into them, and perhaps pushing the rot further back?

A 2004 survey conducted by STOPP International gives us some information on this question. That survey found that around 25% of councils who responded to the survey said they were partnering with Planned Parenthood in some way. That’s a considerable number. However, only 65 out of 249 councils responded to the survey, leaving the vast majority of them unaccounted for. And keep in mind that these are councils rather than individual troops, which are even more numerous. 

Personally, I would like to see more information before I make up my mind about GSA. I absolutely condemn the anti-life actions that have been performed in GSA’s name by its members, and I condemn any partnership of any kind with Planned Parenthood, but I must ask, is there still some way that we can in good conscience support GSA, or is it beyond hope?

What do you think?

Some links with more info about Girl Scouts’ anti-life activism:

100 Questions for Girl Scouts

As noted in the Girl Scouts and Pro-Abortion WAGGGS section, GSUSA also supports abortion rights through their membership in, substantial funding of, and close relationship with the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS), which aggressively promotes accessible, affordable and safe abortions.

Girl Scouts partner with Planned Parenthood:

On March 5th [2004] Kathy Cloninger, CEO of the Girl Scouts of America, appeared on NBC’s “Today” show to discuss the boycott.  … Cloninger explained that Girl Scouts of America addresses the challenges girls face in today’s world, including issues regarding sexuality and body image.  She then added, “We partner with many organizations.  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.”