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Ideology at work: Girl Scouts CEO Anna Maria Chavez

Mary Hasson

Update: GSUSA CEO Anna Maria Chavez recently sent a letter introducing herself to U.S. Catholic Bishops and Church officials.

In it, she speaks generally of the influence of her childhood "faith” to set her “on the right path.” This column makes no comment on her personal spirituality (and her office did not respond to my interview request to speak with her about her faith and work).

But Anna Maria Chavez leaves a professional footprint that suggests an ideology at odds with the Church.

Ms. Chavez’ letter to the Bishops neglects to mention that for the past few decades, in spite of her Catholic faith, she has publicly aligned herself with pro-abortion politicians, public figures, and organizations -- and there’s no evidence that she’s ever publicly defended the Church’s specific positions on sexuality, contraception, or abortion or sought to distance herself in any way from the pro-abortion politics of her Democrat mentors. Consider:

  • As a law student, Chavez wrote that she “greatly admired” Geraldine Ferraro, a pro-abortion Catholic feminist, and had hoped that Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, another pro-abortion feminist, would usher in a new era of women’s rights.
  • As a lawyer, Chavez rose in Democrat political circles, from policy advisor to Bill Clinton’s Transportation Secretary to the inner circle of her self-described mentor pro-abortion Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano. (Napolitano vetoed laws banning partial birth abortion and requiring parental consent for minors’ abortions. Chavez deems Napolitano a mentor on par with her parents.)
  • In 2004, Chavez campaigned hard among Latinos for pro-abortion Catholic Presidential candidate, John Kerry. In 2006, reaching out to Latinos for Governor Napolitano, Chavez acted as a “catalyst” behind the creation of Raul H. Castro Institute (RCI) which aimed to identify solutions to social problems besetting Arizona’s Latino community. Chavez then served on the RCI Executive Committee, which oversaw the RCI Inaugural Symposium on health and wellness issues in the Latino Community. The sole expert they chose to address the problem of adolescent pregnancy? Yolanda Chavez, a veteran Planned Parenthood “Sexual Health Educator.” Her solution? Information, and more information about “sexual behavior and birth control.” Not surprisingly, the Planned Parenthood sex educator lamented the scarcity of school-based “sexual health” education and the money spent on abstinence-only programs. (How successful, in general, is the Planned Parenthood model? Very successful--at “hooking kids on sex.” See what Planned Parenthood does here.)
  • Anna Maria Chavez left the Governor’s staff to become CEO of the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas. As the new CEO of the Southwest Texas Girl Scouts, she delivered a keynote address at the 2009 NOW-inspired Women’s Equality Day celebration in San Antonio, sponsored by a coalition of 65 women’s groups that included her own organization--the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas--and Planned Parenthood of San Antonio and South Central Texas (whose clinics that year, 2009, killed over 2130 unborn babies, many of them Latino: 68% of Planned Parenthood’s 2009 clients in that area were Latino).

In her letter to the Bishops, Ms. Chavez claims she’s committed to building “stronger ties” and “strong relationships” with the Church. And yet, within months of becoming the Girl Scouts’ new CEO, Ms. Chavez kicked off her signature initiative—a new leadership campaign and billion dollar fundraising effort—with events that highlighted women leaders whose professional work treats the Church, and its teachings on contraception and abortion, with disdain.

The N.Y. kick-off event on January 30, 2012 featured remarks by a select group of women leaders including Joanna Coles, the editor of Marie Claire magazine. On Ms. Coles’ watch, Marie Claire has received accolades from Planned Parenthood for its “outstanding work” covering reproductive rights and has directly worked against the Catholic Church on issues related to contraception and abortion. In 2009, when the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines (a predominately Catholic country) vocally opposed a Reproductive Rights Bill, Marie Claire ran graphic ads in support of the bill, telling women, “Don’t let someone else speak for you,” (meaning, ‘Don’t let the Bishops speak for you’). Marie Claire's online magazine gives plenty of “sex tips” for the Girl Scout near you, offers a convenient “Contraceptive Cheat Sheet,” and urges readers to lobby against laws that criminalize underage teen sex.

A few days later, on February 1, 2012, at the Girl Scouts’ Washington, D.C. campaign kick-off event, Ms. Chavez highlighted the leadership of a handful of women, including two prominent pro-abortion Catholics -- HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi sports a 100% positive rating from the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL Pro-Choice America)—that means she never met a pro-abortion bill she didn’t like. And just ten days before the Girl Scout event, Kathleen Sebelius slapped Catholics in the face with the HHS mandate requiring even religious employers to cover contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing drugs. A few months earlier at a NARAL fundraiser, Kathleen Sebelius told the pro-abortion crowd that “we are in a war” against pro-life Republicans over reproductive health.

These are women leaders for Catholic Girl Scouts to emulate? This is how Anna Maria Chavez builds “stronger ties” with the Church?

I reiterate my point made in an earlier post: pro-abortion ideology permeates the Girl Scouts’ leadership ranks. And the Girl Scouts’ recent claim that “girls” and “their parents”---rather than the ideologues at the top--are “calling the shots” in the Girl Scouts’ organization strains credulity. Like any entity, the Girl Scouts’ Board of Directors sets the organization’s mission and direction.

For example, they’ve deliberately chosen to join, financially support (roughly a million dollars annually), and promote (across their websites, books, and events) the pro-abortion World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). And WAGGGS and the GSUSA will co-host, this July in Chicago, the Girls World Forum 2012 to “develop action steps” to support the U.N. Millennium Development Goals. The U.N Millennium Project demands integration of sexual and reproductive health benchmarks across the board, in every MDG, as “essential to the achievement of the MDGs.” Did GSUSA consult Catholic girls and their parents—or Catholic sponsoring entities--about those decisions to support pro-abortion WAGGGS and the MDGs? Are they hearing their “voices” of concern? I don’t think so.

The GSUSA national leaders run in feminist, pro-abortion circles: The friends with whom they socialize, the women leaders with whom they link arms, the coalitions and advocacy efforts they join share the Planned Parenthood/WAGGGS vision of ‘sexual health’ for teens, facilitated by contraception and abortion.

Certainly families and local troop sponsors who share that same vision will have no problems remaining in the Girl Scouts. Not so for Catholics who oppose that vision.

If the Church has learned anything through the Obama-HHS debacle, I hope we’ve learned to ignore rhetoric and scrutinize actions—and to recognize when pro-abortion ideology drives the agenda.

And then? Enough “dialogue.” It’s time to walk.

Topics: Contraception , Culture , Current Events , Girl Scouts , Sexuality , Young Women

Mary Rice Hasson, the mother of seven, is a Fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, D.C. She blogs at wordsfromcana.

View all articles by Mary Hasson

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