Nancy Keenan, the president of the pro-abortion group NARAL is quitting her position, saying she needs to be replaced by someone younger. The pro-abortion activist lamented the lack of young pro-abortion stalwarts in the movement.
Keenan originally made her decision in May, and the chairs of the boards of directors of NARAL and its legislative arm announced she had chosen not to renew her contract , which expires at the end of December. Keenan, who took the reins of the organization in December 2004, will continue heading up the organization’s political action arm until a replacement is found.
“Part of my decision was that, at 40, you have the opportunity to engage a new generation, the Millenials, because they are so huge, and that the person at the helm of this organization could reflect that youth and a younger generation,” Keenan said in an interview with The Hill. “Because now the responsibility lies with these next generations to be vigilant.”
“This isn’t on the top of their list of issues that they’re concerned about right now,” she said. “And so we have to close that intensity gap, we have to make the case for the importance of the vigilance around this issue.”
“This Millennial generation… they are pro-choice, but there is an intensity gap and there still has to be some connecting the personal to the political,” Keenan said, although polling data shows young Americans are more pro-life than older generations.
“Whoever is able to connect the personal to the political with this generation, I think it’s kind of at a tipping point at 40 years — it could go the way, much like we’ve seen marriage equality being embraced by this generation,” she said. “We could see that they are there and will eventually act on those pro-choice values, but we have to close the intensity gap.”
Keenan said President Barack Obama is firm in his pro-abortion resolve.
“I’ve spent time with him, I’ve talked to him, and I unequivocally believe he understands what’s at stake and really does share the value that women in this country should be making those decisions, and not any politician,” Keenan said.
Keenan also admitted the pro-life movement is not going away.
“They’re not going to go away. The intensity on that side will not go away,” she said.
Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser, the head of the pro-life women’s group, responded with comments to LifeNews about Keenan’s retiring.
“Nancy Keenan explains the situation quite well,” Dannenfelser said. “Americans across the board and particularly the younger generation are increasingly identifying as pro-life and more likely to support commonsense pro-life laws that groups like NARAL stubbornly oppose.”
Dannenfelser continued: “America’s youth reject the extreme position shared by Keenan, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and the rest of the abortion lobby, which supports taxpayer funded abortion for any reason, up until the moment of birth. Pro-life intensity on this issue is not going to diminish anytime soon. Keenan and her colleagues are fighting against the tide.”
She said Gallup polling from 2010 revealed that pro-life sentiment has grown among young Americans aged 18-29 with three out of four young Americans rejecting the status quo of abortion on demand, as only 24% say abortion should be legal under any circumstance.
Gallup’s 2012 polling further confirmed this trend noting a seven point drop in young people identifying as “pro-choice” from 2001-2008 to 2009-2012. The pro-choice identification drop among the 18-34 age group was the largest of all age groups surveyed.
The NARAL board chairs have appointed a search committee, made up of board members from across the country, to begin the process of identifying a new president.
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A 2010 internal NARAL survey examined the views of young Americans and found a stark “intensity gap” on abortion. Some 51 percent of the under 30 voters who are pro-life call opposing abortion a “very important” voting issue compared with just 26 percent of abortion backers. The poll found a pro-life gap, too, with older voters but it was smaller.
At that time, Keenan talked about the emerging pro-life generation with Newsweek and said her concern is that abortion advocates are dominated by women over the age of 50 and that younger generations aren’t filling the ranks of pro-abortion groups the same way young pro-life advocates are getting involved in the pro-life community.
Anecdotally, Keenan related the story of getting off her train in Washington during the weekend of the March for Life, which saw 400,000 pro-life advocates fill the nation’s capital to rally against abortion.
She saw huge numbers of teenagers and young adults that she doesn’t typically see at pro-abortion rallies.
“I just thought, my gosh, they are so young,” Keenan recalled. “There are so many of them, and they are so young.”