NARAL Pro-Choice America was established in 1969 as the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws. After the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, NARAL changed its name to the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. In 2003, seeking to soften its image and align itself with the notion that abortion activism was only about “a woman’s right to choose,” the organization changed its name to NARAL Pro-Choice America. It is a member of the National Council of Women's Organizations.
With more than a million members and supporters as well as 22 state affiliates, NARAL today seeks to promote the legalization of taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand, and to defeat all efforts to limit access to abortion in any way. Toward these ends, the organization mobilizes pro-choice activists nationwide, lobbies on behalf of pro-choice legislation at the state and federal levels, and works vigorously—via advertising campaigns, education initiatives, and get-out-the-vote drives—to elect pro-choice candidates across the United States. To facilitate these efforts, NARAL annually produces voter guides highlighting the assets of such candidates. Historically, in each election cycle NARAL has given more than 90% of its political donations to Democrats. In the 2008, 2010, and 2012 election cycles, the figure was 100%.
In May 2008, NARAL's Political Action Committee became the first major pro-choice PAC to endorse Barack Obama for U.S. President. On Obama's behalf, the organization identified and contacted potential supporters in nearly 300,000 households across eight key states—Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Four years later, NARAL strove to help Obama win re-election by again targeting its outreach efforts to pro-choice women—especially those whose support for the President seemed to be waning.
NARAL also works against the nomination of federal judges and cabinet members who oppose unconstrained abortion-on-demand. Over the years, for instance, the organization has opposed the nominations of Supreme Court candidates like Robert Bork, William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas. “[I]f George Bush tries to pack the Supreme Court with out-of-touch far-right judges who want to take away our rights,” said NARAL in January 2005, “he's going to hear from that pro-choice majority loud and clear. We are dedicated to making sure that Roe v. Wade outlives the next four years of George W. Bush.”
In 2004, NARAL tried unsuccessfully to prevent the passage of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (UVVA), which made it an added criminal offense for someone to injure or kill a fetus while carrying out a crime against a pregnant woman. In March of that year, the organization delivered some 130,000 anti-UVVA petitions to members of the U.S. Senate. Deriding the Act for “giving separate legal status to a fetus or embryo,” Kate Michelman described it as “part of a long-term effort to erode Roe v. Wade.”
In addition, NARAL has likewise traditionally opposed:
laws banning the public funding of abortion, on grounds that such bans ensure that “low-income women don't have the same choices as Americans with more money”;
the promotion of “personhood” measures saying that “life begins at conception [and] thus giv[ing] legal rights to a fertilized egg”;
restrictions on women's access to RU 486, or mifepristone, “a safe, non-surgical way for women to terminate an unintended pregnancy ... within the first nine weeks”;
“refusal clauses” that allow hospitals, doctors, pharmacists, employers, and insurers to refuse to perform or finance certain medical procedures that violate their moral or religious principles; and
laws that bar minors from undergoing abortions without first securing parental permission.
NARAL routinely depicts “anti-choice politicians and groups” as cold-hearted extremists who seek to outlaw, “without exceptions,” all “safe abortion methods that protect women's health”; who intentionally mislead women with “false claims” that abortion “causes breast cancer,” “is psychologically damaging,” or “can lead to sterility”; and who frighten both doctors and patients in abortion clinics with “threats of murder, violence, and intimidation.”
Rejecting “dangerous 'abstinence-only' programs,” NARAL believes “the federal government and the states should invest more money in sex-education programs” that “teach teens about birth control.” For years the organization waged a campaign “to make no-cost birth control a reality.” Toward that end, NARAL collected some 50,590 signatures on a petition that it presented to the Department of Health & Human Services, which ultimately oversaw the codification of contraception coverage in the “Obamacare” legislation of 2010.
NARAL has also weighed in on some key issues unrelated to abortion and pregnancy:
Asserting that “every woman has the right to make her own reproductive-health decisions … regardless of her immigration status,” NARAL abjures “regressive immigration laws and policies that force people to live in the shadows.”
NARAL opposes “measures that unnecessarily burden citizens’ voting rights,” including “voter-I.D. laws, potential voter purges, and laws hindering early voting, absentee voting, and voter registration.”