NARAL Pro-Choice America Embarks on Its Next Chapter

An open letter from the Executive Committee of the NARAL Pro-Choice America Board:

Our nation faces a historic moment in the movement to ensure reproductive freedom for every body, and NARAL Pro-Choice America is committed to meeting it. We are doing our part to elect champions who will safeguard our rights, expose the anti-choice movement and the politicians who do its bidding, and organize and advocate at both the state and federal level to expand abortion access. Our newly adopted Strategic Roadmap, our five-year plan to protect and advance reproductive freedom, guides our path to be more proactive, more powerful, and more inclusive.

Following years of divisive attacks and well-funded efforts to undermine Roe v. Wade and decimate access to legal abortion, 2021 has seen more attacks on abortion enacted than any year since Roe was decided.

The conservative-leaning Supreme Court recently agreed to take up a case hinging on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban that directly challenges Roe v. Wade. If the Court were to overturn Roe tomorrow, 24 states would likely take action to prohibit abortion outright. Twelve states already have “trigger bans” in place, which would ban abortion automatically if Roe is overturned.

At the same time, a number of states continue to pass draconian measures. In Texas, for example, a new law is slated to go into effect on September 1 will not only outlaw abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy, before many people even know they’re pregnant, it will also breed vigilantism and encourage individuals to take legal action against anyone who helps someone end a pregnancy.

To state the obvious, the legal right to abortion is hanging on by an extremely tenuous thread, especially for those most marginalized by our healthcare systems, including Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and other communities of color; LGBTQ people; those working to make ends meet; and people living in rural areas.

NARAL has been and will continue to be an outspoken advocate for abortion access and reproductive freedom, running hard-hitting campaigns, working in partnership with a wide range of allies, and electing and holding to account candidates and lawmakers.

We are constantly evaluating and re-evaluating the landscape, strategy, and our ability to effectively do this work from the federal to the state and local levels, building grassroots political power in a way that reflects our core values and the values of a diverse movement for reproductive freedom.

To that end, every five years, NARAL engages in a strategic planning process. When we began the process over a year ago, we knew it was a critical time to get it right given the backdrop of unprecedented attacks on our fundamental freedoms. The process began even before our organization entered a period of leadership transition as we work to identify the next president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. Then, the Supreme Court decided to take up the Mississippi case.

Our goal has been clear and consistent throughout our strategic planning process: continue to evolve NARAL into an even stronger, more diverse, inclusive, and effective organization to meet this pivotal moment.

We have a bold and ambitious agenda for the future, knowing how much is at stake. We will:

● Fight to expand access to abortion everywhere we can and to fight back against bans and restrictions;

● Double down on our research to reach diverse audiences and build support for reproductive freedom and unmask the extremists trying to outlaw abortion;

● Innovate on how to develop and deploy powerful and persuasive content and reach a wide range of audiences;

● Continue to be intentional and transparent in our efforts to dismantle our internal systemic racism and hold ourselves accountable to center diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in our organization and our work;

● Work alongside our partners to pass landmark legislation to safeguard our rights, including the Women’s Health Protection Act, and follow the lead of phenomenal women of color leaders to end coverage bans that harm communities of color and those most marginalized by our healthcare systems;

● Continue to develop legislative strategies at the state and federal level that allow us to push for greater access to abortion, whether via medication abortion care or by ending harmful denial of care policies or via other means.

At every step, we will continue working to ensure that we are the strongest organization possible and that we’re living out our values, including our commitments to anti-racism and diversity, equity, and inclusion. There is so much critical work ahead and our strategic plan touches on multiple key priorities.

NARAL was founded more than 50 years ago to advocate for abortion rights and now counts 2.5 million members across every state and community. Throughout our half-century of existence, we’ve evaluated and taken a close and careful look at our organization, strategy, structure, and what we need to shift or change to be in the best position for the fights ahead.

We are also working hard to have institutional courage in this national moment of racial reckoning. We knew we needed to identify what should change and hold the organization accountable for making those changes. Core to our strategic plan is a deep emphasis on strengthening diversity, equity, and inclusion across all streams of our work. NARAL, like many other organizations, has taken an unflinching look at our organizational culture, policies, and practices to better reflect our values and our commitments. To hold ourselves accountable, our Board approved the Road Map to Equity to guide this work as part of our strategic plan. NARAL believes deeply in anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion being at the heart of our work, and we know we have fallen short at times. We will do better.

It’s been clear for some time that we needed to make changes to the structure of our organization and how we do our work across the nation. Part of that change includes our affiliated structure, which has not been functioning as strongly as it could for NARAL Pro-Choice America, for the individual affiliates, or for our movement and the important work that lies ahead. Like many organizations, we looked closely at the challenges and limitations of our current model, as well as the strengths and opportunities.

During the year-long planning process, we made the decision that in order to meet this moment, we needed to shift to a nationwide model working at both the federal level and on the ground in the states and in communities, rather than an affiliated structure. This reorganization will involve a gradual and thoughtful transition over the next two years. We have engaged and will continue to with our affiliates, the national NARAL staff, and other stakeholders for their input as this process unfolds. This shift to a new organizational model is one of five key pillars in our strategic plan, alongside commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion; our cutting-edge state and national legislative and political work; financial sustainability; and strong governance.

This new model builds on the ways in which we’ve expanded into new states in previous years — including in Nevada and Georgia — and converted affiliates into chapters (which are part of the national organization), as we did with California. At every step, we’ve been tracking where attacks on reproductive freedom are intensifying and where we can go on offense.

In addition to our chapter organizations at the state level (California, Nevada, and Georgia), NARAL Pro-Choice America organizers are also working on the ground in additional states (red, blue, and purple). We have been part of successful advocacy and electoral efforts alongside partners and allies in these and other states for many years.

We are committed to continuing to make multi-year investments and working deeply in partnership with groups at the community, state, and national levels. We believe this model can facilitate and support these goals.

Over the years, we’ve had affiliates spin-off as independent organizations, convert into NARAL Pro-Choice America chapters (including California), and in some instances, affiliates determined they needed to close down. We have drawn insight from these and other models as we approach this transition. We are confident that there is a place for everyone in this new organizational structure.

This transition will be a new phase in the work we do in partnership with the dedicated people who work in our state affiliates, each of whom are leading and supporting critical work on the ground in their states to fight back against attacks on reproductive freedom and to protect and expand access to contraception, abortion, paid family leave, and more. We value their partnership and hope to continue to work closely with them in the future, in whatever form that takes.

As an organization, we are working hard to both address the deepening challenges facing reproductive freedom in the United States and our need to continue to innovate, adapt, and effectively do our critical work in order to meet this moment. We are working toward a future where every body is free to dream their best life and has the freedom to live it as well — a world where people respect other people’s personal decisions around parenthood and pregnancy.

We must continue to rally our supporters and grow and deepen support to achieve this vision. We believe this new organizational model will help make that possible. There are critical next frontier issue advocacy campaigns on the horizon, including around denials of care and medication abortion access, and we must continue our work to pull back the curtain on a radical, well-funded anti-choice movement determined to end legal abortion and advance their agenda of power and control.

We are confident in the future of this organization on the front lines of the fight for reproductive freedom and grateful for the support and collaboration of a wide range of diverse partners and allies.

Onward!

NARAL Pro-Choice America is fighting for reproductive freedom for every body.