- NARAL Pro-Choice America, Inc., a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization. This is their constituency-building grassroots branch.
- NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization founded in 1977. This is their legal branch.
- NARAL Pro-Choice America PAC, a political action committee. This is their electoral branch.
NARAL was originally founded in 1969 as the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws. Feminist writer Betty Friedan was among the founders, who gathered in Chicago that February for “First National Conference On Abortion Laws: Modification or Repeal?”. This conference was sponsored by 21 organizations and consisted of 350 attendees, 12 of whom were elected to the Planning Committee for the organization:
- Lawrence Lader (Chairman)
- Ruth Proskauer Smith (Vice Chairman)
- Ruth Cusack (Secretary)
- Beatrice McClintock (Treasurer)
- Constance Bille Finnerty
- Mrs. Marc Hughes Fisher
- Betty Friedan
- Norval Morris
- Stewart Mott
- Dr. Bernard Nathanson (who later became pro-life)
- Edna Smith
- Percy Sutton
After the passage of the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade legalized abortion, NARAL progressed its focus to defending the legality of abortion, and thus became the National Abortion Rights Action League. In 1993, NARAL was renamed “National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.”
NARAL was renamed yet again in 2003, when it became “NARAL Pro-Choice America,” which some have interpreted as an attempt to re-brand the organization in a country whose population increasingly frowns upon abortion. “It is the right name for this moment in history,” said then-president Kate Michelman. “Through our name change, we are underscoring that our country is pro-choice.”
“NARAL is no longer an acronym for the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League,” says the organization’s website.
NARAL aims to influence the “post-Roe generation” (see Christina Smith’s 2004 paper, “The ‘Choice for America’ Campaign: A Combined Analysis of Framing Urgency,” Conference Papers – International Communication Association).
NARAL has an electoral focus in achieving its objectives, generally investing 100% of its campaign donations in pro-abortion Democratic political candidates. Current president Ilyse Hogue is noted for her extensive electoral and advocacy campaign expertise, and she previously worked for Media Matters and MoveOn.org.
NARAL charges its leadership with “advancing the changes needed to fully embrace the concept of diversity within our internal processes and our external programmatic efforts,” and “will affirmatively recruit, employ, promote, and retain a diverse group of individuals.”
NARAL assesses the pro-abortion rights vs. pro-life composition of Congress, rating legislators according their voting records on abortion-related issues. NARAL also lobbies for pro-abortion legislation and maintains a pro-abortion media presence.
NARAL Pro-Choice America PAC has reportedly spent more than $6 million in campaign contributions since 1990 and more than $2 million in lobbying since 1998. NARAL also organizes against voter I.D. laws and opposes the stigmatization of illegal immigration
Alongside its national political action committee, NARAL has 22 state affiliates which are found primarily in the western and northern regions of the United States.
A New York state ethics panel has permitted the New York branch of NARAL to shield the identities of donors contributing more than $5,000, a disclosure requirement exemption that is set to expire in July 2015.
Kelli Conlin, former president of NARAL-NY Pro-Choice, was charged with “abusing her position and using charitable funds for her personal benefit” in a June 2012 lawsuit during her tenure, and she has since been barred from serving as a fiduciary at any non-profit organization as well as being required to pay $20,000 in restitution.
“National Abortion Rights Action League. Records, 1968-1976: A Finding Aid,” Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe College, 1980, http://oasis.lib.harvard.edu//oasis/deliver/deepLink?_collection=oasis&uniqueId=sch00781 [Last accessed August 28, 2014]
Marion Kaplan, “Betty Friedan,” Jewish Women’s Archive: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia, March 1, 2009, http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/friedan-betty [Last accessed August 28, 2014].
Rick Karlin, “NARAL can shield donors list,” TimesUnion.com, August 12, 2014 http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/NARAL-can-shield-donors-list-5684805.php [Last accessed August 28, 2014].
Peggy Loonan, “Don’t Compromise on Abortion,” The New York Times, January 15, 2003, http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/15/opinion/don-t-compromise-on-abortion.html [Last accessed August 28, 2014].
NARAL Pro-Choice America, “State Affiliates,” http://www.prochoiceamerica.org/about-us/state-affiliates/ [Last accessed August 27, 2014]
“NARAL Pro-Choice America Takes Stand Against Voter Suppression,” November 2, 2012 Press Release, NARAL Pro-Choice America http://www.prochoiceamerica.org/elections/elections-press-releases/2012/pr11022012_voter_suppression.html [Last accessed August 27, 2014]
“Statement of Policy in Favor of Immigration Reform,” adopted May 31, 2013, NARAL Pro-Choice America, http://www.prochoiceamerica.org/about-us/supporting-policies/immigration-reform.html [Last accessed August 27, 2014]
“NARAL Pro-Choice America: Profile for All Election Cycles,” OpenSecrets.org: Center for Responsive Politics, http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary.php?id=D000000246&cycle=A [Last accessed August 27, 2014]
“About Us,” NARAL Pro-Choice America, http://www.prochoiceamerica.org/about-us/ [Last accessed August 27, 2014]
“NARAL Pro Choice America,” A New Zealand Resource For Life Related Issues, http://www.life.org.nz/abortion/aboutabortion/historyglobal2/ [Last accessed September 3, 2014]
Erica Payne, Practical Progressive: How to Build a 21st Century Political Movement. New York: PublicAffairs, 2008.