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:
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.
In October 2014, NARAL ran a political ad in Colorado suggesting that the state’s Republican U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner not only wanted to ban women’s access to birth-control pills, but also sought to make a college education unaffordable for young people and refused to admit that anthropogenic global warming was a major threat to the environment.
NARAL has also weighed in on some key issues unrelated to abortion and pregnancy:
NARAL has received financial support from such notables as Patricia Bauman and Andrew Rappaport, as well as charitable foundations like the Bauman Family Foundation, the Compton Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Educational Foundation of America, the Ford Foundation, the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, the Minneapolis Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the New-Land Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the Public Welfare Foundation, the Stewart R. Mott Foundation, the Streisand Foundation, the Turner Foundation, and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. For a list of additional NARAL funders, click here.
NARAL’s president since January 2013 has been Ilyse Hogue, an expert in both electoral and advocacy campaigns. She has also served on the board of Rebuild the Dream, and has worked with such organizations as Media Matters for America and MoveOn.org. For more information about Hogue, click here.
For additional information on NARAL Pro-Choice America, click here.