I thought I would take this opportunity to update you on some of what is going on nationally, so that, in case you hear or confront some of this, you will be well equipped to respond and understand the context.
Each year during the cookie program, Karlyn Edmonds, the COO, and I are confronted with numerous calls about the "conspiracy between Girl Scouts and Planned Parenthood." At the commencement of the 2014 cookie program, it was obvious this year was different. From the first day of the cookie program, it felt like the "Planned Parenthood and Girl Scout conspiracy" comments had been promulgated widely, primarily via social media and quasi-news websites. We were taken aback with that felt like an orchestrated wave of public relations against Girl Scouts and the cookie program. In the days that followed, the phone calls and emails continued and were significantly more than anything we had experienced in the past.
Let me remind you once again that GSSA
has NO relationship with Planned Parenthood. We have a clear policy, which has been in
place for a number of years, that states we believe issues around sex are best
handled in the family and your faith community. This is not a topic that is part of our
Every day many of the staff read Google alerts, so we can see what else is going on with Girl Scouts around the country. Most of the time, this is a source of good ideas. It was clear when the cookie program started that there was a huge surge in the articles that connect "Planned Parenthood with Girl Scouts." This topic consumed the Google alerts and has during most of the cookie program, not just for us, but for all the Girl Scout councils across the U.S.
When you look at the source of the increase in these articles, most of them are found on blog sites and other media that are not necessarily standard news outlets that check their facts and have substantiation behind what they write and print. In fact, as I clicked through one of the blog sites I found that they had taken a screen shot from our website of one of our girl members and used that to link GSSA to Planned Parenthood. The girl in this case and the article had NOTHING to do with Planned Parenthood, but literacy. It was a violation of this girl's privacy and a misuse of our website. As we started to complain to this blog, we discovered there is no place to contact them. This is not a credible source, and what was done with this girl's article is not journalism.
This more heavily orchestrated move to discredit Girl Scouts has been pervasive and unending throughout the cookie program. Anna Maria Chavez, GSUSA CEO, has made a video to again repeat GSUSA does not have a relationship with Planned Parenthood. We have posted it on our website to reinforce our continued position that we do not have a relationship with this organization either. But what we are experiencing is that in today's world of the blogosphere, where you can say whatever you want with impunity, and if you say it enough times then it becomes true, whether it is factually accurate or not. A crazed person called me last week to rant and rave about Girl Scouts and Planned Parenthood. She didn't want to listen to anything I had to say in our girls' defense. She didn't want to hear about the policy that has been in place for a number of years. She ranted about not buying cookies. Clearly, she is not alone in the subtle and overt intention to boycott Girl Scouts by not purchasing Girl Scout cookies. The cookie program is down in most councils, with our's being down considerably. This is a serious cause for concern since 80 percent of our income is derived from the cookie program.
We have a number of troop leaders on the front lines of these confrontations in their church communities. One last week said a friend was asked to post a biased article connecting "Girl Scouts with Planned Parenthood" on her facebook site. I suspect this is a fairly pervasive way to exploit the situation. I also suspect this posting of information that is not fact based is seen as acceptable, but to what good end? It simply hurts the girls of the community.
You spend a lot of time and energy working to "make the world a better place through Girl Scouts." You know what goes on within your troop and at council events. We do not have a relationship with Planned Parenthood, yet there is a movement afoot to damage the reputation of Girl Scouts and impact the girls you serve. This organization isn't perfect, as is no such entity, but I have spent lots of time watching you create contributing girls of courage, confidence, and character, who will change the world. This type of pervasive attack that misconstrues the facts and at this point is going to assert that Anna Marie Chavez is lying is an affront to all you do with your girls. As you see and hear these kinds of attacks, please be familiar with the facts and know we are not involved with Planned Parenthood.
Girl Scouts of the USA does support WAGGGS, the international Girl Scout organization. That group discusses topics that affect girls all over the world. Some of those issues, thankfully, are not ones we have to deal with in the United States;but there are things that happen to girls in the rest of the world that are offensive and should be discussed. Another piece of purported evidence is that GSUSA supports Planned Parenthood financially. GSUSA recently had to lay off a very large percentage of their staff members because of financial shortfalls, and I have found no evidence that GSUSA supports Planned Parenthood, and Anna Maria Chavez says as much in her video. The link that keeps being discussed surrounds some comments Kathy Cloninger, the previous GSUSA CEO, made at least seven years ago. We are happy to discuss or refute any specific allegations you hear or are confronted with. Please feel free to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Do understand that, at this point, this continual allegation is beginning to damage the very organization you work so hard to support. Thank you for all you do to make a difference in the lives of the girls you work with.