- President of NARAL Pro-Choice America from 1985 to 2004
- Supports women’s right to undergo the procedure known as partial-birth abortion
- Opposes parental-notification laws for minors seeking to have an abortion
- Opposes stiffened penalties for felons who kill an unborn fetus while committing a crime
Once hailed by The New York Times as one of the “grand dames” of the pro-abortion movement, Kate Michelman has long been a key player in the drive to forestall any restrictions on abortion rights. A veteran lobbyist and political strategist, Michelman served as Executive Director and President of NARAL Pro-Choice America from 1985 to 2004. During that time she transformed NARAL into one of the preeminent pro-abortion lobbying groups in the United States.
Born in 1942, Michelman says she was propelled into the vanguard of the pro-abortion movement by a painful personal experience. In the early 1970s, when she was already a mother of three, Michelman found herself pregnant and on welfare. She says that her decision to have an abortion in the pre-Roe v. Wade era required her to obtain consent from both a husband who had deserted her and an all-male hospital board. “From then on I was personally and professionally dedicated to advancing the right of women to choose,” says Michelman.
A specialist in childhood development who spent her early professional career working with developmentally disabled children, Michelman first garnered public notice as a pro-abortion activist in 1987, during NARAL’s campaign to defame conservative Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork. Michelman would later orchestrate similar campaigns against lawmakers and judges who deviated from her uncompromising calls for abortion-on-demand. More than any other pro-abortion activist, it is Michelman who deserves credit for enshrining such smear tactics as a standard operating procedure of the pro-abortion movement.
Michelman has often asserted that overzealous anti-abortion activists pose a constant physical threat to abortion clinic workers. As a NARAL letter sent to supporters in the fall of 2003 put it, “It is frightening that nearly 30 years after the Roe v. Wade decision, young women today face more obstacles in exercising their right to choose than their mothers did a generation ago.” Michelman’s letter then proceeded to catalog some of those alleged obstacles: “Bombings, break-ins, vandalism, harassment, and even anthrax mail threats at women’s health clinics continue, while assaults and murders of courageous health care providers remain an unacceptable hazard.”
Michelman has also promoted the invocation of racism and misogyny as a favorite rhetorical device of the pro-abortion lobby. At one January 2004 event, for instance, she intimated that opponents of abortion were actuated by something far more sinister than their professed concern for the unborn child. Said Michelman: “This new generation of women — especially the poor women and women of color who have always been most likely to have their basic freedoms challenged — faces a tremendous risk at the hands of zealots determined to take away their reproductive rights.” In the same speech, Michelman falsely accused President Bush of having “become the only President in our nation’s history to make abortion a federal crime.” The source of Michelman’s discontent was Bush’s 2003 signing of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. “Last year,” said Michelman, “President Bush put women’s health at direct risk by signing that ban — surrounded by a cadre of gleeful men.”
Apart from her opposition to the ban on partial-birth abortion, Michelman also rejects the legitimacy of parental-notification laws for minors seeking to have an abortion, and of stiffened penalties for felons who kill unborn children while committing a crime.
When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in April 2007 that the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 did not violate the U.S. Constitution, Michelman wrote in response: “It is nothing less than the greatest blow to a woman’s right to reproductive freedom since that right was first guaranteed more than 30 years ago. … And remember, the two Supreme Court Justices nearest to retirement are staunch defenders of women’s rights — just imagine if another Republican president is allowed to replace them. You know as well as I do that the right wing won’t stop at a woman’s right to decide. They’ve painted a bull’s eye on a broad range of privacy rights, civil liberties and other basic rights that we take for granted. This is one of the most important reasons all of us — but especially women — must be fiercely committed to electing a Democratic president in 2008 who will protect and defend our rights. And that is why I am so strongly committed to electing John Edwards.”