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NARAL Pro-Choice America

By

Nancy Keenan

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images.

Mission:

To "guarantee every woman the right to make personal decisions regarding the full range of reproductive choices." The original focus of the organization was on abortion rights, but it has since expanded its activism to include access to birth control, which is often also at risk.

Founded:

In 1969, as the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL). The organization has changed its name three times since then to reflect its broadening mission, becoming the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) in 1973 following the legalization of abortion in Roe v. Wade, becoming the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League in 1993, and becoming simply NARAL Pro-Choice America in 2003.

Organizational Structure:

NARAL is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that conducts national activism, issue advocacy, and public education centered on protecting legal access to abortion and birth control. The organization also oversees 25 state affiliates that promote NARAL's goals on a local level.

Supporters Say:

The ACLU is a multi-issue civil liberties organization, NOW and the Feminist Majority Foundation address a broad range of feminist concerns, but NARAL holds the distinction of being the only large, well-funded national organizations to focus exclusively on reproductive choice.

Critics Say:

NARAL is obviously not a darling of the anti-abortion movement, but it has also run afoul of many feminists who feel that the organization has not done enough to address issues impacting low-income women and women of color. In Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide, for example, author Andrea Smith calls NARAL to task for not doing enough to fight involuntary sterilization and policies that deny abortion access to low-income women. NARAL has since placed greater emphasis on obstacles to abortion access, such as the Hyde Amendment.

I Say:

No organization's mission is as broad as it initially appears to be. If judged as an organization that focuses exclusively on anti-abortion, anti-birth control policy, NARAL is the best in the country. If judged as an organization that comprehensively addresses reproductive choice, it comes up short. If your primary concern is with right-wing policies that criminalize access to abortion and birth control, you can't go wrong with NARAL.
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