NARAL Pro-Choice America, an abortion advocacy organization founded by eugenics and population control proponents who fabricated lies about illegal abortion mortality rates to promote legalized abortion, ignited a firestorm with the June release of its five-year “Strategic Roadmap.” The Huffington Post obtained a copy of the non-public document, which announced the organization’s intention to “become more proactive, more powerful, and more inclusive,” using language which is largely in keeping with the group’s Road Map to Equity. HuffPost observed that the controversy is found in NARAL’s “decision to get rid of its affiliate network” through restructuring to a chapter model.
Currently, the NARAL umbrella includes 11 state affiliates which function as “independent organizations tied to the national organization. They set their own agendas and raise their own funds ― with some money coming from national ― while working with the other state affiliates and the national group.” But the shift toward a “chapter” model will cause the state level affiliates to lose their independence, making every chapter employee a NARAL staff member. HuffPost notes that the shift will give NARAL’s corporate office “more control over strategy, communications and policies.”
NARAL board member Kimberly Peeler-Allen framed the change as a net positive for the current affiliates. “We’re still going to lean in deeply and work in the states because we believe that that is one of the next frontiers of this work. But we want to do it in a way that we are sure that we have a uniform message,” she said. “We are allowing the folks on the ground to not get bogged down in the HR practices and payroll and all of those pieces and really focus on the work….”
But according to HuffPost, the 11 affiliates are collectively “furious” that “they weren’t meaningfully included in the decision and are being pushed out of the network at a time when state issues are more important than ever.” NARAL Missouri’s Executive Director Mallory Schwarz called the shift a “missed opportunity” because it’s the “(affiliate) networks that have those direct communications and direct input and boots on the ground.”
The Roadmap triggered the immediate resignation of two affiliate representatives to the NARAL board, and is just the latest fracas between corporate and the state affiliates. Schwarz and the other affiliate representative, Rebecca Hart Holder of NARAL’s Massachusetts branch, had already sent two letters to corporate NARAL at the time of the Roadmap’s release, expressing frustration with their “active exclusion from the process” of drafting the document.
But tensions have long run high between corporate NARAL and the affiliates regarding fundraising and corporate NARAL’s perceived tendency to take credit for state level gains. NARAL Virginia’s executive director Tarina Keene commented, “It’s really been maddening [seeing] the credit that they have taken for those victories without sharing in the investment, in the planning and the implementation of those plans.”
Former NARAL board member Renee Bracey Sherman took to Twitter to express her disagreement with the organization’s decision and shared a BuzzFeed article from August 2020, in which she and others described experiencing top-down racism within Planned Parenthood and NARAL.
What?! The NARAL National board is making decisions that are hurting our repro strategy and ignoring the needs of organizers and affiliates locally?! WOW! I’m surprised!https://t.co/H5cfB18qKa
— Renee Bracey Sherman (@RBraceySherman) July 13, 2021
Some affiliates have decided to abandon the NARAL mantle. In an email to supporters, NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon‘s executive director Christel Allen wrote, “NARAL Pro-Choice America’s board of directors voted to fully nationalize the organization, by eliminating all 11 independent state affiliate organizations, including NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon — a major change in the 50-year structure of the organization. We are disappointed by this decision, especially as it was made without our input and against our recommendation.”
NARAL was rocked by multiple allegations of racism in 2020 that likely contributed to long-time leader Ilyse Hogue’s leaving her role as president in late May. Also in May, Live Action News reported that the former NARAL Pro-Choice America Texas affiliate has distanced itself from the national organization and rebranded under the name “Avow,” in direct response to a perception that corporate NARAL was not taking its abortion advocacy seriously enough.
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