NARAL Pro-Choice America

- formerly the National Abortion Rights Action League

NARAL was founded to do the laborious work of fighting state laws that restricted women's acces to legal abortion.

  • Lader argued that as early abortions were safer than childbirth, women should have legal access to abortion services.
  • Lader favoured a complete liberalisation of abortion laws.
  • The marriage of abortion with the aspirations and activism of the feminist movement, was a brilliant tactic.
  • NARAL now wants to make abortion less necessary.
  • In a survey, more than 20% of Americans had a less favourable opinion of abortion that they had ten years before.
NARAL was founded in 1969, initially as the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, four years before abortion was legalised by the Supreme Court. In 1973, it became known as the National Abortion Rights Action League.

In 1993, it became the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, trying to de-emphasize abortion in favor of "rights." Now it has changed to "Naral Pro Choice America."

Long-time president Kate Michelman said: "It is the right name for this moment in history. Through our name change, we are underscoring that our country is pro-choice."

NARAL Pro-Choice America is now the leading political lobby for reproductive freedom for women; their current focus is working to defeat elected politicians and candidates who they see as committed to 'restricting women's access to abortion.'

Early Days
NARAL co-founder Dr Bernard Nathanson, who has since become a stalwart "pro-life advocate," has described the group as "...the radicals, the Bolsheviks. We would settle for nothing less than striking down all existing abortion statutes and substituting abortion on demand" when talking about his former organisation.

At that time, Lader was clearly in favor of a complete liberalization of abortion laws, and he repeatedly suggested throughout his book that "the main impediment to such a liberalization was the power of the "Roman Catholic hierarchy."

He spoke of situations in which "one Catholic doctor" on a hospital abortion review committee was able to veto women's requests for abortions. He described the idea that a foetus is a person from the moment of conception, as a "minority dogma" by which the majority of Americans was being "tyrannized."

He summed up what can be called the standard "argument from pluralism" in this way:
"Every shade of belief must be protected under our democratic system, including the belief of the Catholic or anyone else that life starts at the moment of conception. The whole basis of abortion reform is to insure that all rights are respected.

"No religion or group, on the other hand, should impose its position on the rest of the nation. No religion, by demanding adherence to the status quo, by refusing to allow the slightest legal reform, should use the power of the law to force its belief on others....

"Richard Cardinal Cushing, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston, has already proclaimed in eloquent language: "Catholics do not need the support of civil law to be faithful to their own religious convictions and they do not seek to impose by law their moral views on other members of society."
Most of the Catholic hierarchy seem to have ignored the Cardinal's pronouncement. [Lader is talking about the USA]

Nathanson was a respected physician in New York City, but he had, in effect, one foot in the abortion subculture through his contacts and his involvement in abortion rights activism. Nathanson served as the director of a large abortion clinic in New York City for a period of a year and a half.

In the years which followed his resignation from that position, he began to reflect on the social revolution in which he had been involved, and came to have doubts about the morality of unrestricted access to abortion. He became active in the pro-life movement and eventually converted to Catholicism.

His "Confession of an Ex-Abortionist," can be read here.

Anti-Catholic Strategy
One of the tactical strategies Lader (died from cancer, 7th. May, 2006) devised was to set up the Catholic bishops as a 'strawman,' as every revolution, he said, had to have a villain. A second strategy was to convince liberal Catholics to join the fight.

The campaign to identify abortion as a Catholic issue received cooperation from the sympathetic media. For example, whenever opponents of abortion, who happened to be a Catholic, made a statement, they were identified as 'Catholic.'

The church reacted to the abortion controversy as Lader had predicted. What he didn't anticipate was the Catholic clergy's perseverance, which eventually cut across religious affiliations and brought new allies into the fight.

NARAL then devised a new strategy of naming the opposition "right-wing fundamentalists." The battle was the same as before, except the target had changed.

New Name - New Direction
Now, along with defending and securing privacy and a woman's right to choose abortion, NARAL Pro-Choice America's website claims to be leading the way to make abortion less necessary.

David J. Garrow, a legal historian at Emory University who has studied the abortion debate, said the organisation was using its new name to put a greater emphasis on choice as opposed to abortion. "It's a free way of getting `pro-choice' into a news story, even if editors don't allow the words to be used in the reporter's voice," Professor Garrow said.

Previous NARAL president, Kate Michelman, once admitted to the Philadelphia Inquirer (12/11/1993): "We think that abortion is a bad thing. No woman wants to have one." Although she later denied having said such a thing, the interview was taped.

A 2002 poll showed that more than one-fifth of the Americans surveyed have a less favorable opinion of abortion today than they did one decade ago. The poll further noted that "pro-life" support nearly doubled, compared with the number of people who more closely identify with the abortion-rights agenda.

To counter this NARAL-PCA decided to mobilize its "citizens' army" by enlisting a new generation of young women who have never known an America without the "right to choose." NARAL-PCA targeted key battleground states for an intensive grassroots campaign that included taking its agenda door-to-door.

Abortion rights activists in more than 15 States participated in a campaign to sign up 2 million new NARAL-PCA members, and hoped to add tens of thousands of names to a petition supporting Roe v. Wade.

In the 2004 US Presidential elections, NARAL's Kate Michelman resigned her position as President, allowing her to endorse and campaign for Democrat contender John Kerry.

In spite of all the efforts of NARAL and their supporters, President Bush was re-elected with 286 to 252 electoral vote advantage and a popular vote margin of more than 3.5 million votes. "We are deeply disappointed by these election results," Elizabeth Cavendish, interim president of NARAL said in reaction.

Addressing a group of protesters assembled in Washington to demonstrate against the annual March for Life, held by opponents to abortion on January 24, 2005, NARAL President Nancy Keenan said that "the freedom President Bush discussed in his inaugural speech should also include the right to have an abortion."