NARAL Pro-Choice America was conceived in 1969 as the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws. When the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, NARAL changed its name to the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. With 500,000 members and 36 state affiliates, the group today lobbies on behalf of pro-abortion legislation at the state and federal levels, conducting opinion polls, mobilizing pro-abortion activists, and producing a yearly publication titled A State-by-State Review of Reproductive Rights, which monitors developments in abortion legislation in each American state. Central to this work is NARAL's two-tiered mission to defend legalized abortion-on-demand, and to defeat all efforts to limit the procedure.
In 2003, seeking to soften its image and to align itself with the idea that abortion was only about “a woman’s right to choose,” NARAL changed its name to NARAL Pro-Choice America. Kate Michelman, NARAL's then-President, explained, "It is the right name for this moment in history."
NARAL opposes a ban on the procedure commonly known as partial-birth abortion, despite broad public support for the ban, support which cuts across political lines.
The organization also opposes the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, a 2004 law that recognizes unborn children killed during the commission of a crime as victims. In May 2003, following the California murders of Laci Peterson and her unborn son, NARAL campaigned against the passage of the Act in Congress.
NARAL produces annual voter guides supporting pro-abortion political candidates. Through its political action committee, NARAL Pro-Choice PAC, the organization has worked vigorously to elect such candidates across the United States, via advertising campaigns, education initiatives, and get-out-the-vote drives. NARAL contributes both funds and political advice to candidates who adhere to its pro-abortion platform.
In 2003 NARAL devoted itself to the task of unseating President George W. Bush, waging campaigns on behalf of the Democratic challenger in battleground states. The aim of these campaigns, according to NARAL's Michelman, was "to educate younger voters, moderate voters as well as independent voters about what is at stake." Michelman (who in 2004 would resign after 18 years as NARAL's President to join a pro-abortion drive under the auspices of the Democratic National Committee) told a DNC interviewer, "If President Bush is reelected, I believe that women could lose their right to choose."
NARAL works against the nomination of federal judges and cabinet members who it believes are opposed to taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand. In 1987 NARAL was instrumental in helping to thwart the Reagan administration's Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork. The organization has also opposed the Supreme Court nominations of William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas. In 2000, NARAL and its allies failed only by a small margin to prevent the nomination of Missouri Senator John Ashcroft to the office of Attorney General.
A member of the National Council of Women's Organizations, NARAL was an Organizer of the April 25, 2004 "March for Women's Lives" in support of taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand.
In 2012, NARAL pursued a strategy designed to win the support of pro-choice women who in the 2008 presidential election had voted for Barack Obama, but in 2012 were either planning not to vote for him, or were only weakly supporting him. NARAL policy director Beth Shipp explained that much of the pro-choice shift away from Obama had nothing to do with abortion but rather the economy, which, she said, “still sucks.” "Those people are still pro-choice and if you talk to them about choice and relay to them how important it is this election and why their reproductive rights are at risk they can come back to the fold,” Shipp added, maintaining that some pro-choicers base their votes on a candidate's abortion stance alone.
NARAL receives financial support from numerous foundations, including the Bauman Family Foundation, the Compton Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Educational Foundation of America, the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the Turner Foundation, and others.
In 2003, NARAL's operating revenue was $9,435,955. During the 2004 election cycle, the organization contributed $430,750 to Democratic political candidates and $10,000 to Republicans.