New anti-abortion rights website targets Girl Scouts

Posted on: May 16th, 2011 by Sofia Resnick 80 Comments

Image by: Matt MahurinA new anti-abortion rights website has emerged, its aim focused on the Girl Scouts of the United States of America.

Speak Now: Girl Scouts is the product of two Texas-based teen sisters, Tess and Sydney Volanski, who claim to have recently quit the Girl Scouts after eight years because they discovered the organization has a “pro-abortion mindset.”

The homepage of the all-pink website begins with the following introduction (emphasis in the original):

We refuse to remain silent while this organization’s unscrupulous principles mislead over 2 million girls in the United States alone. We created SpeakNowGirlScouts.com in order to spread the truth to others who have no idea what GSUSA’s [Girl Scouts of the United States of America's] true intentions are. This website is our way to speak now and we hope it encourages you to do the same!

The Volanskis claim the Girl Scouts USA has an “anti-life, pro-abortion agenda.” As evidence, they point to “controversial content” in various GSUSA printed materials, wherein the national Girl Scouts organization provides links and references to organizations such as the Women’s Media Center, Media Matters for America and discusses high-profile feminists and female authors such as Marjane Satrapi, who authored the graphic novel Persepolis.

The Volanskis also point to an edited news clip on YouTube in which Kathy Cloninger, chief executive officer of GSUSA, says Girl Scouts partners with church communities, the YWCA and Planned Parenthood organizations to bring sex-based education programs to girls. The girls also frequently cite Abby Johnson, who traded her career as a Planned Parenthood clinic director to travel the country speaking against Planned Parenthood and abortion rights. The Speak Now website includes a section titled “What Does Abby Say” and links to several of Johnson’s recent Facebook comments, such as “FACT: Girl Scouts of America supports Planned Parenthood. Support Girl Scouts = Support Abortion.”

Johnson’s story appears to have a couple of noticeable parallels with that of Tess, a soon-to-be high school freshman, and Sydney, a soon-to-be high school sophomore:

  • Johnson was involved with Planned Parenthood for eight years before having what she refers to as a “change of heart”; Tess and Sydney were involved in the Girls Scouts for eight years before going on what they refer to as a journey, which was “not a casual, easy, or convenient decision.”
  • Johnson immediately joined the Coalition for Life after she left Planned Parenthood; the Volanskis are currently volunteers for their local Coalition for Life.

The Girl Scouts initially came under scrutiny from the anti-abortion rights community last fall, after the Catholic Family & Human Right Institute reported that the World Association of Girl Scouts and Girl Guides (WAGGG) hosted a girls-only panel at a United Nations Commission on the Status of Women event,  where the Institute claimed WAGGG allowed Planned Parenthood to distribute an International Federation of Planned Parenthood brochure on the subject of sexuality and HIV titled “Healthy, Happy and Hot” to the Girl Scouts.

Since then, anti-abortion rights groups such as the Family Research Council have condemned the Girls Scouts of the USA and its international branch for having “increasingly close connections” with Planned Parenthood and, by extension, abortion. The Family Research Council has praised the creation of the Volanskis’ new website — which also cites the IFPP brochure — and has directed young girls to take the teens’ lead and quit Girl Scouts to join American Heritage Girls, a “nonprofit dedicated to the mission of building women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country,” according to the group’s website.

But Girls Scouts USA has long disputed this one-year-old story about the brochure. GSUSA spokesperson Michelle Tompkins told The American Independent that the national Girls Scouts organization does not have a relationship or partnership with Planned Parenthood, has never had one and never plans on having one. Tompkins said the story about the HIV/sex brochure was made up.

In an official statement disputing the claim, GSUSA said that no one from the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute was in the room where the pamphlets were supposedly given to Girl Scouts and that no girls who attended that specific UN panel received such a brochure.

Tompkins said that the national and international Girl Scout organizations do not have a position on abortion or birth control other than to be neutral on both, but she said girls in individual troops throughout the country are allowed to work on projects on virtually any issue, including abortion and birth control.

“We support girls who do projects on both sides of these issues,” Tompkins said. In addition, Tompkins told TAI she was recently alerted to a Girl Scout doing a project on Creationism, with an anti-abortion emphasis on reproductive rights, and another girl who did a project on international reproductive health with an angle skewing the other direction.

GSUSA’s official position, according to a statement:

Our official position on health and sex education is that in some areas of the country, Girl Scout troops or groups may choose to hold discussions about human sexuality and may choose to collaborate with a local organization that specializes in these areas. The topic is discussed from a factual, informative point of view and does not include advocacy or promotion of any social or religious perspective. Participation in these discussions is optional, and each girl who participates must provide written consent from her parent or guardian.

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