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The 40th Anniversary of NARAL: Is Life in America Better Today Because of Reproductive “Choice”?

By Jessica Sage
AUL Staff Counsel

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the founding of the National Abortion Rights and Reproductive Rights Action League (“NARAL”) and its headlining of a reproductive “right” to “choice.”  Since its inception, the efforts of recently-recast NARAL Pro-Choice America have resulted in more than 46 million legal abortions in the United States—a number that should shock the public, but is all too often drowned out by NARAL’s noisy rhetoric of reproductive “choice.”  For Americans that value and seek to protect human life, the question is:  Is life in America better today as a result of NARAL?

Who is NARAL?

According to its website, NARAL’s mission is “to develop and sustain a constituency that uses the political process to guarantee every woman the right to make personal decisions regarding the full range of reproductive choices, including preventing unintended pregnancy, bearing healthy children and choosing legal abortion.”  NARAL is a strong advocate for creating a fundamental right for women to make reproductive choices and an initiator of the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), a radical attempt to enshrine abortion-on-demand into American law, to sweep aside existing laws that the majority of Americans support—such as requirements that licensed physicians perform abortions, fully-informed consent, and parental involvement—and to prevent states from enacting similar protective measures in the future.  It is also committed to using the political process to guarantee “reproductive rights” and affirmatively recruits, employs, promotes, and mobilizes its constituency to do so. 

A Brief History of NARAL

NARAL was founded in 1969 as The National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws.  Later, in 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Roe v. Wade effectively repealed all state abortion prohibitions and accomplished much of NARAL’s initial objective of legalizing abortion nationwide.  Shortly after Roe, NARAL changed its official name to National Abortion Rights Action League and moved its offices to Washington, D.C.  Understanding the sweeping impact of Congressional action and federal court decrees, NARAL needed the most efficient way to counter emerging state initiatives and resolutions asking Congress to pass a Constitutional Amendment outlawing abortion.   The election of President Ronald Reagan in 1980 slowed NARAL’s agenda as federal and state limits on abortion began to take hold, but NARAL’s ambition for abortion-on-demand was already being imposed on all Americans—without regard for their “choice” and democratic voice.

In the 1990’s, NARAL strongly supported President Bill Clinton’s candidacy.  Following his inauguration, NARAL began actively promoting FOCA and launched campaigns to preserve access to and gain more taxpayer funding for abortion and contraceptives.  As resources increased, NARAL focused on marketing its messages and principles, placing a women’s “right to choose” at the top of their agenda. 

In 2003, NARAL added “Pro-Choice America” to its name and focused on mobilizing grassroots efforts for pro-abortion candidates in Congress.  As the Democrats assumed control of the Congress, NARAL credited its political program for achieving a gain of 44 pro-abortion seats in the House and 8 in the Senate from 2006 and 2008. 

Now, after staunchly supporting the most pro-abortion presidential candidate in history, NARAL is reaping the benefits of its efforts to elect Barack Obama.  In December 2008, NARAL joined with several other pro-abortion groups to issue a 55-page set of pro-abortion “marching orders” to the Obama transition team.  As a result, in just the first 100 days of the Obama Administration, America has witnessed and is threatened by the most aggressive pro-abortion policies in American history.

For NARAL, A Woman’s Reproductive “Choice” is Paramount

NARAL’s message is clear:  Reproductive “choice” for women is paramount and akin to a religious belief or ideal.  As seen on its website-based legislative tracker, NARAL classifies any form of common-sense and popularly-supported regulation of abortion such as informed consent or parental involvement requirements as “anti-choice legislation.”  Most notably, under NARAL’s education, legislative and political agendas, a woman’s reproductive “choice” is more important than substantively protecting women’s health, America’s children, and healthcare providers’ freedom of conscience.


“Choice” Above Women’s Health

NARAL clearly values reproductive “choice” above women’s health.  NARAL champions “choice” and the “right to safe, legal abortion,” but has no interest in ensuring that women are well-informed or that abortion clinics meet basic health and safety standards. 

While NARAL hides behind “choice,” it actively opposes any effort to help women make an informed decision about abortion.  Informed consent laws protect a woman seeking an abortion by requiring abortion providers to give the woman basic information such as who will perform the abortion, the procedure to be used, the risks of the procedure, scientifically accurate information about the unborn child, and alternates to abortion.  Informed consent laws are also being expanded to include optional ultrasounds, information about the pain the unborn child feels during an abortion, and protections against coerced abortions.

NARAL and other abortion advocates ignore increasing evidence as to the negative physical and psychological impact of abortion on women and conceal immediate and long-term health risks arising from abortion.  For example, abortion can immediately cause infection, damage to the cervix, scarring or perforation of the uterus, and in some cases death.  There are also related long-term effects including:  a higher risk of preterm births in subsequent pregnancies, an increased risk of breast cancer, and negative emotional and psychological effects including an increased risk of suicidal ideation and depression.  Rather than advocating for an open discussion and more medical studies to improve existing knowledge of these known risks to women, NARAL simply dismisses these significant health risks and labels informed consent advocates as “opponents of women’s freedom.”

NARAL also actively fights any legislative initiatives to mandate medical and safety standards for abortion clinics and individual providers.  Abortion clinic regulations typically include licensing and training requirements for abortion clinic personnel, sterilization and maintenance standards for surgical instruments and other equipment, the on-site availability of functioning emergency care equipment, and minimally acceptable levels of post-procedural patient care.  Clearly, these requirements encompass basic health and safety standards, yet NARAL stands opposed to such protections. 

“Choice” Above Children

NARAL puts safeguarding “choice” above protecting the children of America.  Its reproductive “choice” agenda undermines parental involvement in minor’s sexual and reproductive decisions.  NARAL actively lobbies against any form of legislation that encourages parental involvement for a minor to have an abortion.  Parental involvement laws have been shown to both reduce the number of abortions and provide the support a young woman needs in a time of great challenge.  Instead, NARAL undermines parent-daughter relations and advocates for young women in vulnerable situations to face difficult decisions alone and at great risk to their health.

NARAL also promotes comprehensive sex education in America’s public schools, teaching America’s youth that it is okay to engage in sex as long as you protect yourself from pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) through contraception—completely ignoring the emotional and psychological component of engaging in sex.  In 2005, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 81 percent of abortions were performed on unmarried women.  And the Guttmacher Institute reported that 54 percent of women having an abortion used a contraceptive method (usually a condom or the birth-control pill) during the month they became pregnant.   NARAL deceptively teaches our youth they can have sex without consequence by using contraception and if that fails they can choose an abortion.  The notion that contraception protects America’s youth from the emotional attachment and physical risks of sexual intercourse is erroneous and destructive — yet NARAL labels abstinence-only programs as the “dangerous” choice. 

Needless to say, NARAL values reproductive “choice” over the human life in the womb and encourages America’s women to do the same.  Under the pervasive “choice” mantra of NARAL, America has increasingly become a nation of mothers that choose convenience and “rights” over their children in the womb.

“Choice” Above Healthcare Freedom of Conscience

NARAL values women’s reproductive “choice” over a healthcare provider’s right of conscience.  It advocates for a woman’s “choice” for contraception and abortion, but opposes “choice” for healthcare practitioners who do not want to provide or participate in such services because of moral, ethical, or religious objections. Nor does it support the “choice” for a woman to see a doctor who shares her beliefs as to contraception and abortion.  Healthcare conscience clauses provide individual and institutional healthcare providers the legally-protected right to conscientiously object to participate in an abortion, or in the case of pharmacists, to dispense abortifacient drugs and contraceptives.  Rather than respect “choice” in this context, NARAL seeks to pass “compulsion” bills forcing healthcare providers to participate in life-ending measures that violate their deepest-held beliefs.


Is life in America better today as a result of NARAL and its advocacy of a paramount “right” to reproductive “choice”?  For those that care about life-affirming policies and laws that protect women’s health, the children of America, and freedom of conscience, the answer is a resounding “No.”  Sadly, under NARAL’s radical and pervasive education, policy, and legal initiatives, the number of women and children harmed by abortion will continue to increase unless American women make a “choice” in favor of life, even when the “choice” is difficult and the road ahead is unknown.

This article was published with permission from Culture of Life Foundation. To view the original publication, see their website.