LifeNews Tells Girl Scouts: We Won’t Stop Reporting Your Link to Planned Parenthood

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 18, 2014   |   12:05PM   |   Washington, DC

Through our attorney, LifeNews has issued a response to Girl Scouts USA, which recently sent us an a letter attempting to intimidate LifeNews and pressure us to stop reporting on its links to the Planned Parenthood abortion business.

During the last two weeks, LifeNews has brought international attention to the link between the Girl Scouts and the Planned Parenthood abortion business and the national boycott of Girl Scouts cookies sponsored by pro-life groups.

As we reported, after a series of LifeNews articles on the boycott and the Girl Scouts-Planned Parenthood link, that featured the Girl Scouts logo to identify the organization, Brian Crawford, an executive with Girl Scouts USA, wrote LifeNews a scathing letter attempting to intimidate us into stopping our reporting on their link and to no longer use their logo or image to identify them as we bring attention to their support for the nation’s biggest abortion business.

girlscouts2Ultimately, the Girl Scouts USA letter has nothing to do with a logo and is really about intimidation. GSUSA doesn’t want people to know about its push for Planned Parenthood/abortion and this kind of letter is used as an intimidation tactic to attempt to get us to back down in our reporting. Sadly, the Girl Scouts has already intimidated one whistleblower into acquiescing to their demands to no longer use their logo when reporting on their pro-Planned Parenthood agenda.

LifeNews saw the same kind of intimidation last year when, after sending us a similar threatening letter with their logo as the diversion tactic, NAACP attorneys sued LifeNews writer Ryan Bomberger following his reports at LifeNews about its continued abortion advocacy. The NAACP has since spent hundreds of thousands of dollars suing him in court and Ryan is awaiting a judge’s ruling in the case to defend his free speech. The lawsuit has had nothing to do with a logo and everything to do with trying to stop LifeNews from exposing the NAACP’s pro-abortion agenda.

LifeNews’ attorney, Chris Ingold, who is affiliated with Alliance Defending Freedom, responded to the Girl Scouts on behalf of LifeNews.

In its letter to LifeNews, GSUSA claimed it has no links or ties to Planned Parenthood despite lengthy evidence to the contrary. LifeNews responded by asking GSUSA to provide information about which, if any, LifeNews articles about the ways in which the Girl Scouts have promoted abortion, Planned Parenthood or pro-abortion activists contain errors.

“At a minimum, it will be important to learn from the Girl Scouts which articles the organization finds offensive, and why. Regardless of any concerns of the Girl Scouts about my clients’ use of logos to clarify matters in news stories, it is always my clients’ intent to make sure information in the news stories is as accurate as possible. So, please contact us for further discussions about the information used in the stories and any clarifications that you believe would be important to share with the many readers of my clients’ news articles,” Ingold wrote in LifeNews’ reply.

“We also welcome further dialog with the Girl Scouts about the underlying facts of the LifeNews articles that outline alleged ties of the Girl Scouts with Planned Parenthood,” he added.

GSUSA has yet to respond with any citations of any factual errors in LifeNews’ reports or evidence proving they are erroneous.

Ingold further writes that GSUSA cites the wrong code in its attempt to prevent LifeNews from using its logo in reports on its Planned Parenthood advocacy and maintains LifeNews, as a media outlet, has a First Amendment right to identify the Girl Scouts in our reporting.

In error, Mr. Crawford cited to 36 U.S.C. § 80106 et. seq. (NOTE: that section of the Code addresses the distribution of assets of the General Federation of Women’s Club upon liquidation), as a basis upon which the Girl Scouts sought to bar the use of the Girl Scouts’ logo on the LifeNews website. I believe Mr. Crawford meant to reference 36 U.S.C. § 80305 (emphasis added), which reads as follows:

The corporation has the exclusive right to use all emblems and badges, descriptive or designating marks, and words or phrases the corporation adopts, including the badge of the Girl Scouts, Incorporated, referred to in the Act of August 12, 1937 (ch. 590, 50 Stat. 623), and to authorize their use, during the life of the corporation, in connection with the manufacture, advertisement,
and sale of equipment and merchandise. This section does not affect any vested rights.

So, the Code (as expected) does not infringe on the First Amendment rights of U.S. citizens, and (instead) solely bars the commercial exploitation of the Girl Scouts’ logo by third parties. In distinction, of course, my clients are simply making use of the logo as part of a news story and are not seeking any dilution of the exclusive identification of the Girl Scouts’ logo with the Girl Scouts organization.

Exploring intellectual property law, in an attempt to find a basis for barring the use of the Girl Scouts’ logo on the LifeNews website, does not result in a different outcome in my analysis about the propriety of my clients using a logo to clarify matters in news stories about the Girl

Considering trademark law, my clients have engaged in the “classic” form of fair use in the sense that my clients have used the Girl Scouts’ mark in a purely descriptive sense to describe the Girl Scouts’ own organization and activity. Similarly, even Mr. Crawford mentioned “the Girl Scouts® logo” in his letter to my client to aid his attempt at clarity. The use of a trademark is often essential to clarify knowledge about about a matter being discussed.Further, because the LifeNews articles do not cause confusion and there is no indication of sponsorship or endorsement of LifeNews by the Girl Scouts, reference to the Girl Scouts’ logo within the LifeNews articles is “nominative fair use.” My clients have only made such use of the Girl Scouts’ mark as is reasonably necessary to identify the Girl Scouts in the news articles.
Going beyond the relatively permissive authority of law governing trademarks to an analysis of this situation under copyright laws, my clients’ use of the Girl Scouts’ logo in articles appearing on the LifeNews website still falls within fair use. As codified in 17 U.S.C. § 107, fair use of copyright material includes “. . . news reporting . . .”
While the Girl Scouts must necessarily protect and enforce their rights to the Girl Scouts’ logo against the commercial damage of unauthorized uses, my clients’ news articles are rooted in the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States that protects the right of U.S. citizens to communicate and discuss vital concerns in a free republic, and the news articles fall within fair use.

The pro-life movement has been concerned for a number of years about the ties between the Girl Scouts and the Planned Parenthood abortion business. Although the Girl Scout organization maintains that it takes “no position” on the issue of abortion, parents, churches, and pro-life activists have long complained of the pro-abortion slant of the Girl Scouts’ resources, role models, and affiliations.

The links between the Girl Scouts and Planned Parenthood are longstanding, with a Girl Scouts CEO and individual troops admitting as much.

The ties between the two groups have been questioned ever since former Girl Scouts CEO Kathy Cloninger admitted on NBC’s The Today Show: “We partner with many organizations. We have relationships with…Planned Parenthood organizations across the country.” See the video here.

Then, in a national survey, seventeen Girl Scouts councils admit to partnering with Planned Parenthood; many other councils refuse to answer the survey question. Of the 315 Girl Scout councils in the U.S., 17 councils reported having a relationship with Planned Parenthood and its affiliates, and 49 reported they do not — or 25% of all Girl Scout troops responding to the survey. The other 249 refused to disclose any possible relationship.

In 2010-2011 Girls Scouts in New York partnered with Planned Parenthood for a sex-ed program, “Real Life. Real Talk.” The program website touts their partners (link has since been removed): “Real Life. Real Talk. is proud to count the following organizations, faith communities and companies as partners: …Girl Scouts of NYPENN Pathways.”

In June 2013, the Girl Scouts promoted a video honoring abortion activists and having pro-abortion advocate Amy Richards as their guest speaker.  Because the MAKERS narrative is so unabashedly pro-abortion, it strips away all pretense that the Girl Scouts USA is ‘neutral’ on the issue of abortion.

The Girl Scouts have been criticized for their involvement in the May, 2013 Women Deliver Conference, an international event that included “safe and legal abortion” among its overarching themes. It documents its role in the planning and facilitating of the December, 2012 Bali Global Youth Forum and the outcome declaration, which demands youth access to abortion.

For fourteen years, the Girls Scouts in Waco, TX co-sponsored a sex ed conference with Planned Parenthood. “It’s Perfectly Normal” a book written by a Planned Parenthood executive was  given to all children in attendance says abortion can be “a positive experience.” And in January 2012, Girl Scouts employee Renise Rodriguez wore a “Pray to End Abortion” t-shirt during off-duty visit to her Tucson Girl Scout office and was ordered to her to turn the shirt inside out or leave.

As LifeNews reported in 2012, the Girl Scouts joined with Planned Parenthood to head a UN conference and LifeNews reported on the investigation the Catholic Church is undertaking into the ties between the Girl Scouts and Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion groups.

The Girl Scouts have also promoted pro-abortion elected officials. Fresh on the heels of Girl Scouts USA (GSUSA) sharing a recommendation for pro-abortion Texas gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis as a 2013 Woman of the Year via their official Twitter account, the organization suggested pro-abortion HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as a woman “with courage, confidence, and character.”

Meanwhile, the new national spokeswoman for the Girl Scouts, Kelly Parisi, is the former spokeswoman for a pro-abortion organization — one founded by Gloria Steinem.