NARAL Pro-Choice America is an organization in the United States that engages in political action to oppose restrictions on abortion and expand access to abortion. NARAL is often used as a short form of the name. The organization was formerly known as the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, then the National Abortion Rights Action League, and later the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League.
Those agents attending the session elected a 12-person Planning Committee for NARAL's formation: Lawrence Lader (Chairman), Ruth Proskauer Smith[wp] (Vice Chairman), Ruth Cusack (Secretary), Beatrice McClintock (Treasurer), Constance Bille Finnerty, Mrs. Marc Hughes Fisher, Betty Friedan, Norval Morris, Stewart Mott, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, Edna Smith, and Percy Sutton. The committee held its first official meeting in New York on February 25, 1969. It hired Lee Gidding as the first Executive Director; she opened NARAL's office in New York City on March 3.
The Planning Committee defined NARAL's purpose as follows:
- "NARAL, recognizing the basic human right of a woman to limit her own reproduction, is dedicated to the elimination of all laws and practices that would compel any woman to bear a child against her will. To that end, it proposes to initiate and co-ordinate political, social, and legal action of individuals and groups concerned with providing safe operations by qualified physicians for all women seeking them regardless of economic status."
The original NARAL program had six parts:
- Assist in the formation in all states of direct political action groups dedicated to the purpose of NARAL;
- Serve as a clearing house for activities related to NARAL's purpose;
- Create new materials for mass distribution which tell the repeal story dramatically and succinctly;
- Train field workers to organize and stimulate legislative action;
- Suggest direct action projects;
- Raise funds for the above activities.
The Board of Directors, elected by the membership, officially replaced the Planning Committee at the first Board meeting, held on September 27, 1969. The Board elected Honorary Officers (Co-Presidents Dr. Lester Breslow[wp] and Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm[wp], Senator Maurine Neuberger[wp] as Vice President), Officers (including New York City Councilwoman Carol Greitzer as President), an Executive Committee (Lawrence Lader, Chairman), and a Nominating Committee. In addition, the Board adopted a very specific program of action that focused on winning repeal in New York and other key states. Only one year after NARAL's formation, the New York state legislature voted to legalize abortion and the new law went into effect on July 1, 1970. On that day, NARAL held a medical conference at NYU Medical School to train physicians in non-hospital abortion techniques.
From 1969 till early 1973, NARAL worked with other groups to repeal state abortion laws and to oversee implementation of abortion policies in those few states that had liberalized their laws. On January 22, 1973, in Roe v. Wade[wp], the U.S. Supreme Court[wp] held that, during the first three months of pregnancy, abortion should be a private decision between a woman and her doctor, and that during the second three months state regulation should be permitted only to protect the health of the woman. To reflect the Court's repeal of restrictive laws, NARAL became the National Abortion Rights Action League in late 1973.
- National Abortion Rights Action League Records, 1969-1976. Radcliffe College Harvard University archives
- Key Moments in NARAL Pro-Choice America's History, Archive[ext]
- Jennifer S. Lee: New York Times. Abortion Rights Group Plans a New Focus and a New Name, New York Times on January 5, 2003