US: Girl Scouts chief executive on the defensive over pro-abortion claims
Anna Maria Chavez claims reproductive issues are a "deeply personal" matter, best left to families.
The Girl Scouts of the USA has come under fire from pro-life groups for supposedly promoting abortion advocate and politician Wendy Davis.
GSUSA is over a hundred years old and a popular institution throughout the US with over two million members. However it has faced a significant amount of criticism over recent years for supposedly having an in increasingly 'leftist' agenda, and a relationship with pro-choice organisations such as Planned Parenthood.
The debate intensified when a link was sent by the Girl Scouts' Twitter account to a page on the Huffington Post's website that offered suggestions for the title of 'Women of the Year 2013'. The list included youth activist Malala Yousafzai, who advocates for the right of girls to be educated.
Controversial, however, was the suggestion of Democratic Senator for Texas Wendy Davis, who is actively working against a bill that would make it more difficult for women to get an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Several groups, including the Pro-Life Action League and Life Coalition International, have since boycotted the Girl Scout's annual cookie drive, taking place this year under the banner of 'Cookie Cott 2014'.
The groups state that they are doing so in protest of the promotion of "pro-abortion politicians ... as women to be honoured for their accomplishments".
There has been huge debate in the US over the controversy, which has led to Girl Scouts chief executive Anna Maria Chavez releasing a video in which she speaks of the organisation's commitment to inclusivity and suggests the organisation has been misportrayed in the media.
"Here is the bottom line: at Girl Scouts, we stand for girls," she says. "Our mission is to help today's girls develop the skills they need to become tomorrow's leaders. We stand for giving girls the opportunity to develop into strong, confident, courageous adults who are committed to making the world a better place.
"We do not, nor have we ever, had a relationship with Planned Parenthood. Girl Scouts of the USA believes that reproductive issues are deeply private matters best left to families.
"I find it unsettling that anyone would use the Girl Scouts brand to have very adult conversations."
Ms Chavez continues by highlighting her personal religious convictions at the same time as making clear that GSUSA as a whole does not have a particular religious or political agenda.
"My own faith is central to who I am, yet Girl Scouts remains secular because we believe faith is intimate and personal. We remain secular not to minimise a girl's religious experience, but to cultivate girls of all religious traditions while excluding no one," Chavez asserts.
It is as yet unclear whether this latest addition to the conversation will quell the concerns of pro-life groups who have criticised GSUSA's position.
Ryan Bomberger of the Radiance Foundation, which describes itself as "an educational life-affirming organisation", has said: "The Girl Scouts still proclaim to be honest and courageous, while denying their continual collaboration with the nation's largest and undeniably dishonest abortion chain.
"Abortion doesn't make the world a better place, unless you agree with the deeply racist and elitist pseudoscience of eugenics - the foundation of Planned Parenthood."
Judie Brown, President and Co-founder of the American Life League has also added her voice to the debate.
"The Girl Scouts were once a trusted organisation dedicated to character building in young girls and women. Now, GSUSA is abusing that trust," she said.
Chavez's video response is available to watch here: