JUNEAU -- The Girl Scouts said flatly Friday that the organization had no connections to Planned Parenthood, answering a legislator who had held up a resolution honoring the organization and the Year of the Girl.
The legislator, Rep. Wes Keller, R-Wasilla, said he was concerned over Internet "rumors" of such a connection.
"Our position on sensitive issues is quite clear," Girl Scouts of Alaska said in a written statement. "We take no position on the subjects of birth control or abortion and we believe these topics are best discussed between girls and their families. Neither Girl Scouts of USA, nor Girl Scouts of Alaska has a relationship or partnership with Planned Parenthood."
On Thursday, Keller, acting chairman of the House State Affairs Committee, stunned other committee members and Sen. Bettye Davis when he wouldn't let the committee move Davis' resolution honoring a century of Girl Scouts and the 2012 Year of the Girl. The resolution had passed the Senate unanimously in February.
"I'm sure you are aware of the information that's floating around the Internet, and I'd like to give you the opportunity to respond to your connection, the Girl Scout connection, with Planned Parenthood and the activist role in that," Keller said to Davis and her legislative intern. The 21-year-old intern had presented the resolution to the committee.
Davis said she didn't have a clue what he was talking about.
She and the intern later found references in the right-wing blogosphere to assertions the Girl Scouts and Planned Parenthood were in league to advance a radical feminist agenda that includes abortion rights.
Keller's decision to hold the resolution and his remarks led to a storm of public comments. On Friday, he and another legislator, Rep. Anna Fairclough, R-Eagle River, sought to dampen the uproar by asserting he was properly asking questions in his role as chairman.
"Keller didn't know asking a question was wrong," said the headline on a press statement issued by his office. He described the aftermath of the committee meeting and his decision to bottle up the resolution as a "brouhaha over asking a simple question."
"The question I posed was based on a rumor I had heard about regarding a connection that presumably should be aired," he said in the statement. He said he was concerned that any link to an organization that would compromise Girl Scouts principles "needs to be brought to the forefront.
"I did not establish a link; I simply asked the question, nothing more," he said. If Davis provides a response, "we can get on with honoring the Girl Scouts."
An aide in his office, Jim Pound, said Friday afternoon that Keller wouldn't take a reporter's questions.
During a floor session in the House Friday morning, Fairclough rose to Keller's defense, citing "freedom of speech."
"Yesterday I read with some sadness a report about a bit of dust that was kicked up over Girl Scouts and honoring those Girl Scouts," said Fairclough, who described herself a former scout. "It truly is a privilege to be in this body and a responsibility to be a chairman of any committee, and if we have questions about something that's going on in the public, it's certainly everyone's right to ask those questions so that those questions can be answered."
Fairclough said she would vote in favor of Davis' resolution if it got the floor.
A few minutes later, Keller himself rose and asked Speaker Mike Chenault for "permission to speak on cookies."
"Girl Scouts, you know, the values, leadership, self-sufficiency, service, dignity, about family values," he said. "We all know of a fantastic reputation of the Girl Scouts and we all want it protected."
Perhaps making light of the uproar he provoked, he added, "I just wanted to say that if any Girl Scouts out there have any cookies left over, there's probably a soft market in Room 432 -- but sealed packages only."
Reach Richard Mauer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (907) 500-7388.
By RICHARD MAUER
Anchorage Daily News