Times-Union readers want to know:
An email I received says not to support the Girl Scouts or buy their cookies because the organization promotes Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood; Betty Friedan, founder of NARAL Prochoice; and other women who support abortion rights as icons for our children to emulate. Is this true?
You can continue to buy your Girl Scout cookies if you like; the claims in this viral email are on thin ice (not to mention Thin Mints).
The email comes under the signature of Judie Brown, president of the Virginia-based American Life League, which bills itself as the “largest grass-roots Catholic pro-life organization in the nation.”
Paul Rondeau, the American Life League’s executive director, told PolitiFact.com that Christy Volanski, a former Girl Scout troop leader, did the research behind the information. Rondeau said that after the email came out, Volanski made it clear that the Girl Scouts’ “promotion” of Sanger was not directly in the Scouts’ curriculum; instead, that occurred via social media.
PolitiFact.com, the fact-finding Pulitzer Prize-winning project of the Tampa Bay Times, looked into the claims one by one:
Sanger was a nurse and lecturer who opened the country’s first birth control clinic and founded the American Birth Control League (later called the Planned Parenthood Federation of America).
Volanski said that the Pinterest page for Girl Scout Cadettes — Scouts in grades 6 through 8 — includes a link to a May 17, 2013, entry on a blog by Denise Graveline, a public speaking coach and communications consultant in Washington, D.C.
The blog lists 13 speeches on human rights by women including Sojourner Truth, Clara Barton, Margaret Chase Smith, Eleanor Roosevelt, Lady Gaga, Betty Friedan and Sally Field.
The Sanger entry says: “Women’s rights to birth control were Margaret Sanger’s campaign in the 1920s, and for her efforts to speak out on this issue, she was arrested and ignored and fought. Her focus was the children born ‘unwelcome, unwanted, unprepared for, unknown,’ a stirring bit of alliteration.”
A web link leads to a March 30, 1925, speech in which Sanger argued for women to be free from “enforced, enslaved maternity. There can be no hope for the future of civilization, no certainty of racial salvation until every woman can decide for herself whether she will or will not become a mother, and when and how many children she cares to bring into the world.”
PolitiFact.com saw no mention of abortion on the Sanger web pages and you can check it out yourself at tinyurl.com/oaz28kq.
Friedan, a leading figure in the women’s movement, is the author of “The Feminine Mystique” and helped found the National Organization for Women (NOW), a civil rights organization for women. She also served on a Girl Scouts USA board.
In the Girl Scouts’ curriculum, Volanski told PolitiFact.com, Friedan is one of the exemplary women described in a 2008 guide on how older Scouts can make a case for change.
Her name is contained in “Voices for Good” blurbs, about particular women and their achievements.
Friedan is mentioned in two blurbs, but neither mentions abortion or her involvement in starting the abortion rights action league.
In 1963, the guide says, Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique” attacked “the belief that homemaking and childbearing are the only ways for women to find satisfaction in their lives. … The book galvanizes the women’s movement.”
The 1966 guide says Friedan and Pauli Murray, the first black woman Episcopal priest, wrote the mission statement for the National Organization for Women, with a declared purpose of women gaining full participation in American society in “true equal partnership with men.”
Today, the guide says, the group’s priorities include an end to violence against women.
Again, PolitiFact.com found no mentions of abortion or birth control in the 103-page guide.
THE GIRL SCOUTS SAY
On a “What We Stand For” web page, Girl Scouts of the USA says: “The Girl Scout organization does not take a position on abortion or birth control. We believe this is a private matter for girls and their families.”
Kelly Parisi, spokeswoman for the New York-based Girl Scouts, told PolitiFact.com that the Scouts’ curriculum does not depict Sanger, Friedan and other women as abortion advocate icons.
“We are a nonpartisan, nonpolitical organization,” Parisi said.
No matter what you personally think of the Girl Scouts, there is no evidence for American Life League’s claim that the group’s curriculum essentially promotes abortion.
None of the curriculum material mentions any woman’s abortion stance as a reason for singling her out. Abortion is not mentioned elsewhere in the guide, either.
PolitiFact.com, which rates statements as True, Mostly True, Half True, False, Mostly False and Pants on Fire, says it found no factual reason to conclude that the Scouts are teaching girls as the email claims. It rates this one as False.
Carole Fader: (904) 359-4635