NARAL Pro-Choice America
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NARAL Pro-Choice America //, is a 501(c)(4) organization in the United States that engages in political action to oppose restrictions on abortion and expand access to abortion. NARAL is often used as a short form of the name. The organization was formerly known as the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, then the National Abortion Rights Action League, and later the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.
The precursor to NARAL was ARAL—the Association to Repeal Abortion Laws. ARAL was an expansion of the "Army of Three"—Pat Maginnis, Rowena Gurner, and Lana Phelan. The Army of Three traveled widely to meet women in private homes and union halls across the county, where they offered support, contraceptive information, and referrals to safe abortion providers in Mexico.
Originally called the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, NARAL was established at the First National Conference on Abortion Laws: Modification or Repeal?, held February 14–16, 1969 in Chicago. Its formation was announced on the front page of The New York Times. The conference, sponsored by 21 organizations and attended by 350 people, included a planning session for NARAL and the report of NARAL's pre-formation planning committee: Lawrence Lader of New York, Garrett Hardin of California, and Dr. Lonny Myers of Chicago. Key conference speakers included obstetrician/gynecologist Bernard Nathanson (who later became an anti-abortion activist), journalist Lawrence Lader, and women's rights advocate Betty Friedan. The conference was split between those favoring American Law Institute guidelines—which would permit abortion only in cases of rape or incest, or to preserve the life or health of the mother—and those led by Betty Friedan and Conni Bille, favoring abortion rights at the discretion of the mother. These pro-choice advocates asserted that women should determine what was best for themselves in consultation with their physicians. The conference voted to adopt the pro-choice position.
Those agents attending the session elected a 12-person Planning Committee for NARAL's formation: Lawrence Lader (Chairman), Ruth Proskauer Smith (Vice Chairman), Ruth Cusack (Secretary), Beatrice McClintock (Treasurer), Constance Bille Finnerty, Mrs. Marc Hughes Fisher, Betty Friedan, Norval Morris, Stewart Mott, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, Edna Smith, and Percy Sutton. The committee held its first official meeting in New York on February 25, 1969. It hired Lee Gidding as the first Executive Director; she opened NARAL's office in New York City on March 3.
The Planning Committee, meeting regularly between February and September 1969, defined NARAL's purpose and program, drafted by-laws to submit to the membership for approval, prepared a slate to run for the Board of Directors, and directed NARAL's activities. The Committee defined NARAL's purpose as follows:
NARAL, recognizing the basic human right of a woman to limit her own reproduction, is dedicated to the elimination of all laws and practices that would compel any woman to bear a child against her will. To that end, it proposes to initiate and co-ordinate political, social, and legal action of individuals and groups concerned with providing safe operations by qualified physicians for all women seeking them regardless of economic status.
The original NARAL program had six parts:
- Assist in the formation in all states of direct political action groups dedicated to the purpose of NARAL;
- Serve as a clearing house for activities related to NARAL's purpose;
- Create new materials for mass distribution which tell the repeal story dramatically and succinctly;
- Train field workers to organize and stimulate legislative action;
- Suggest direct action projects;
- Raise funds for the above activities.
The Board of Directors, elected by the membership, officially replaced the Planning Committee at the first Board meeting, held on September 27, 1969. The Board elected Honorary Officers (Co-Presidents Dr. Lester Breslow and Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, Senator Maurine Neuberger as Vice President), Officers (including New York City Councilwoman Carol Greitzer as President), an Executive Committee (Lawrence Lader, Chairman), and a Nominating Committee. In addition, the Board adopted a very specific program of action that focused on winning repeal in New York and other key states. Only one year after NARAL's formation, the New York state legislature voted to legalize abortion and the new law went into effect on July 1, 1970. On that day, NARAL held a medical conference at NYU Medical School to train physicians in non-hospital abortion techniques.
From 1969 till early 1973, NARAL worked with other groups to repeal state abortion laws and to oversee implementation of abortion policies in those few states that had liberalized their laws. On January 22, 1973, in Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court held that, during the first three months of pregnancy, abortion should be a private decision between a woman and her doctor, and that during the second three months state regulation should be permitted only to protect the health of the woman. To reflect the Court's repeal of restrictive laws, NARAL became the National Abortion Rights Action League in late 1973.
In 2003, the organization dropped the long form in favor of NARAL Pro-Choice America. In 2003, the organization launched a massive television and print campaign in order to make abortion a key issue in the 2004 elections.
NARAL Pro-Choice America uses numerous tactics to lobby for liberalized access to abortion, both in the U.S. and elsewhere. It sponsors lawsuits, donates money to politicians supportive of abortion rights through its political action committee, and organizes its members (especially through Internet communication and e-mail) to contact members of Congress and urge them to support NARAL's positions. In addition, NARAL sponsors special events, most notably the March for Women's Lives in 2004. Following the move of the organizations headquarters after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision Karen Mulhauser served as the first national executive director. Her tenure ran from 1974 to 1982. The next NARAL leader was Nanette Falkenburg who served from 1982 until 1985 ; Kate Michelman became the next director until she announced her retirement in 2004. Nancy Keenan, formerly the Montana state Superintendent of Schools, became President of NARAL Pro-Choice America and served until February 2013. Ilyse Hogue is the current President.
NARAL Pro-Choice America is a non-profit organization, and has approximately 20 state affiliates. NARAL Pro-Choice America and its affiliates have been criticized by some other pro-choice political activists, both for supporting pro-choice former Republicans Lincoln Chafee and Michael Bloomberg and for supporting moderate or conservative Democrats.
NARAL Pro-Choice America also sponsors public sex education and tracks state and national legislation affecting laws regarding abortion, women's health and rights.
2008 U.S. Presidential Election
Late in the Democratic presidential primaries, NARAL endorsed Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton. NARAL had long supported Clinton through her political career. NARAL's political committee board was divided between Clinton and Obama supporters, but eventually voted unanimously to support the Illinois senator. NARAL officials said they were not snubbing Clinton but rather acknowledging that Obama was likely to be the nominee and that there was a growing divide between black voters and white female activists. NARAL president Nancy Keenan stated in a press release: "Today, we are proud to put our organization's grass-roots and political support behind the pro-choice candidate whom we believe will secure the Democratic nomination and advance to the general election. That candidate is Senator Obama."
NARAL's endorsement sparked heavy criticism from EMILY's List, whose president, Ellen R. Malcolm, said “I think it is tremendously disrespectful to Sen. Clinton—who held up the nomination of an FDA commissioner in order to force approval of Plan B and who spoke so eloquently during the Supreme Court nomination about the importance of protecting Roe vs. Wade—to not give her the courtesy to finish the final three weeks of the primary process. It certainly must be disconcerting for elected leaders who stand up for reproductive rights and expect the choice community will stand with them.”
- In an ad featuring anti-abortion terrorism survivor Emily Lyons and targeting U.S. Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, NARAL claimed that while U.S. Deputy Solicitor-General, Roberts supported "violent fringe groups and a convicted clinic bomber." While Roberts did argue before the Supreme Court that a 19th-century statute directed against the Ku Klux Klan did not apply to those protesting outside abortion clinics, the case in question occurred almost seven years before the bombing pictured in the ad and was entirely unrelated to clinic bombings. The ad was retracted under pressure from other pro-choice groups as undercutting the credibility of the abortion rights cause.
- In 2004, the organization sponsored the March for Women's Lives.
- National Women's Health Network | A Voice For Women, A Network For Change
- "National Abortion Rights Action League Records, 1969–1976. Radcliffe College Harvard University archives".
- New York Times. Abortion Rights Group Plans a New Focus and a New Name. Jennifer S. Lee. January 5, 2003
- Jane Hamsher, "NARAL and Planned Parenthood Are Now the Enemies of Pro-Choice," The Huffington Post, February 24, 2006.
- Rhee, Foon (May 14, 2008). "NARAL endorses Obama". The Boston Globe.
- EMILY's List Trashes NARAL for Obama Endorsement | The New York Observer
- McCain and women's "health"
- Factcheck.org "NARAL Falsely Accuses Supreme Court Nominee Roberts". Annenberg Political Fact Check. August 9, 2005. Retrieved August 12, 2005.
- Balz, Dan (August 12, 2005). "Abortion Rights Group Withdraws Anti-Roberts Ad". washingtonpost.com.
- Official website
- NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota's records are available at the Minnesota Historical Society.
- Records, 1968–1976. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.
- Records of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, 1972–2008. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.