NARAL Prez to Resign: Says Pro-Choice Side Getting Too Old

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 10, 2012   |   6:18PM   |   Washington, DC

NARAL’s pro-abortion president, Nancy Keenan, announced today she will resign her position at the end of the year to help the pro-abortion group overcome one of the problems plaguing the pro-abortion movement — a lack of young leaders.

The chairs of the boards of directors of NARAL and its legislative arm announced today that president Nancy Keenan has chosen not to renew her contract, which expires at the end of December this year. 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.

The 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.

“When Nancy took over as our organization’s leader nearly eight years ago, she brought tremendous energy and a unique perspective as a former elected official from a Western state,” said Janet Denlinger, chair of the board of directors for NARAL.

Keenan said, “Leading NARAL Pro-Choice America for nearly eight years has been a privilege.”

“In building a great organization, there is no single defining action, no single election cycle, nor one leader that makes it successful. It is a combination of the talented and dedicated staff, state affiliates, member activists, and boards. These individuals work every day to protect women’s reproductive rights.  I am so very proud to have worked side by side with all of them,” she added.

Keenan said part of her focus is to get younger pro-abortion activists into top leadership roles, at a time when polls are showing the next generation of American leaders is pro-life.

“In the next eight months, I will focus on helping pro-choice candidates win elections,” Keenan said. “In addition, I will work with my colleagues as we prepare to mark the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade. We have built an innovative initiative to engage and recruit even more members of the Millennial Generation to the pro-choice cause. We did this by listening and learning from younger people about their experiences and ideas for protecting choice in the next 40 years and beyond.”

Emily Buchanan, of the Susan B. Anthony List, told LifeNews that a change at the top doesn’t affect the fact that younger Americans are trending pro-life.

“No change in leadership will change the fact that NARAL and their pro-abortion allies are losing ground. Polls show more and more Americans moving to the pro-life position and state legislatures taking on increasing measures to protect Life. NARAL’s position of abortion for any reason, any time, paid for taxpayers simply does not resonate with the American public,” she said.

Keenan talked with the Washington Post about the need to recruit the younger generation to promote abortion.

In recent years, Keenan has worried about an “intensity gap” on abortion rights among millennials, which the group considers to be the generation of Americans born between 1980 and 1991. While most young, antiabortion voters see abortion as a crucial political issue, NARAL’s own internal research does not find similar passion among abortion-rights supporters. If the pro-choice movement is to successfully defend abortion rights, Keenan contends, it needs more young people in leadership roles, including hers.

“There’s an opportunity for a new and younger leader,” Keenan said during a Wednesday interview in her downtown Washington office. “Roe v. Wade is 40 in January. It’s time for a new leader to come in and, basically, be the person for the next 40 years of protecting reproductive choice.”

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.”



The NARAL survey Newsweek obtained also showed the millennials surveyed did not view abortion as an important right that needed defending.

However, it contained an important nuance that pro-life advocates must confront as they move to build a consensus towards protecting unborn children by law.

“Millennials are more likely than their boomer parents to see abortion as a moral issue. In the NARAL focus groups, young voters flat-out disapproved of a woman’s abortion, called her actions immoral, yet maintained that the government had absolutely no right to intervene,” Newsweek indicated.

That means the next generation of America’s business, government and society leaders generally oppose abortion but are unwilling to make abortions illegal. The pro-life movement must work to shift the culture towards protecting unborn children under law if it is to seize on the pro-life open-mindedness of the next generation.

To that end, the pro-life movement has successfully utilized ultrasounds to shift public opinion — something former NARAL president Kate Michelman acknowledged in her own interview with Newsweek.

“The technology has clearly helped to define how people think about a fetus as a full, breathing human being,” she said. “The other side has been able to use the technology to its own end.”