There might be fewer people Do-si-do-ing home with Girl Scout cookies this year. Anti-abortion groups, led by Pro-Life Waco in Texas, have vowed to boycott cookie sales due to the Girl Scouts of the USA’s (GSUSA) Tweet of an article on The Huffington Post.
The article, regarding the most influential women of 2013, cited pro-choice Democratic Texas state senator Wendy Davis, who is also running for governor of Texas.
“Pro Life Waco decided to boycott in 2014. We heard about it and decided to offer support,” said Christy Volanski, a stay-at-home mom who runs a small business from her home in Spring, Texas. Pro-Life Waco Director John Pisciotta referred questions to Volanski. She declined to say what type of business is run from the home.
So far, said Volanski, CookieCott 2014 has garnered support from conservative organizations nationwide. “What started with just Pro-Life Waco caught fire across the nation,” said Volanski. She characterized the boycott as “loosely organized.” Pro-Life Waco launched a website, cookiecott.com, that outlines the issues and provides a downloadable flyer detailing the Girl Scouts’ alleged support of abortion.
GSUSA generated backlash with a December 18 Tweet linking to the Huffington Post story. In response to one of the organization’s detractors, the organization Tweeted on Jan. 5, “We shared the list, we didn’t choose or endorse it.” A post on GSUSA’s Facebook page, made on December 30, linked to a Washington Post article about seven women of distinction, including Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, who is also pro-choice, further raising the ire of pro-life groups.
“We find it upsetting that fringe groups would use the Girl Scouts to further their own political agenda at the expense of millions of girls throughout the country. Girl Scouts is a non-profit organization with a century-long history of providing girls with the skills they need to become our next generation of leaders,” according to a 112-word release from Girl Scouts of the USA, based in New York City.
Volanski’s involvement with the Girl Scouts began in 2002. She pulled her two daughters out of the organization in 2010. “The position of the organization is that they don’t take a position on human sexuality, contraception or abortion,” she said. “But when we started looking at events and curriculum, we were seeing advocacy for abortion rights and other things that were not neutral.”
Kelly Parisi, vice president of communications for GSUSA, maintains the Girl Scouts take no position on abortion. “We believe that issues of family planning are best left with families,” she said. Parisi added that she believes the claims of bias are “absolutely” unwarranted. “The Tweet we sent out was in no way an endorsement. We think it’s appropriate to talk about women leaders. We are not a political organization. We’re a girls leadership organization, and that’s the only conversation we want to have.”
Pro-Life Waco ran a boycott of Girl Scout Cookies in 2004, when the local Girl Scout Council was “holding up the local Planned Parenthood CEO” as a role model, said Volanski. According to Parisi, cookie sales in 2004 for the Girl Scouts of Central Texas, the boycotted council, were up over 2003, though she said specific figures were unavailable. Girl Scouts sold a record-setting total of $800 million worth of cookies in both 2013 and 2012, said Parisi.
Volanski said the goal of the boycott is more about raising awareness than about changing Girl Scout policies. “I do think even after cookie sales, people will discuss these concerning activities of the Girl Scouts. I think the effects of this awareness campaign through CookieCott will carry on through 2015.”