Pro-Abortion Group Struggles to Connect With Youth, Republicans

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 14, 2013   |   2:18PM   |   Washington, DC

The pro-abortion group NARAL may have elected a new president in an attempt to reshape its image as organization that connects with young Americans as opposed to its appearance as a group of old malcontent feminists.

That effort isn’t working yet.

As a new article in Roll Call points out, the NARAL public relations campaign is struggling to connect with the audience it needs to reach to expand beyond its left-wing base that supports abortion at any time for any reason.

One of the nation’s most prominent abortion rights groups is working to remake its image in response to concern that it may be overtaken by a growing cadre of young anti-abortion activists.

Its message: This is not your mother’s NARAL.

With Ilyse Hogue, a former senior staffer at Media Matters for America and, freshly installed as its president, NARAL Pro-Choice America is more outwardly embracing its alliance with Democrats instead of fighting to win support from what it says is an increasingly hostile Republican Party. At the same time, it is warning that its opponents are more tenacious than ever in an effort to harness the energy of young voters who supported President Barack Obama. Hogue, 43, declined to be interviewed for this story.

“When I first got to NARAL, we had a lot more Republicans,” said NARAL Policy Director Donna Crane, who has been with the group for more than a decade. “We lobbied a lot more [GOP] offices.”

Not a single congressional Republican attended last week’s NARAL dinner in Washington, D.C., commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, organizers said.

But some worry the movement has lost the gusto of its early days — and its clout on Capitol Hill. NARAL Pro-Choice America, a politically active nonprofit, spent $1.7 million in the 2012 cycle, up from slightly more than $500,000 in 2010, but NARAL’s political action committee contributed just less than $750,000 to Democratic candidates in 2012, continuing a steady decline from 2004 when it spent $3 million. Hogue, well-known in liberal Washington circles for her social-media savvy and fundraising acumen, could help boost the group’s electoral presence. She succeeds Nancy Keenan, who retired after heading the group for eight years.

The group spends comparatively little lobbying Congress, reporting just $170,000 in expenditures last year.

Dave Andrusko of the National Right to Life Committee has some thoughts on why NARAL has such a hard time connecting with anyone outside the most extreme cadre of abortion proponents.

The irony is hard to miss, as we’ve pointed out many times. NARAL is dusting off its “who decides?/it’s all so complicated” slogan from days gone by. So we could agree. This is not your mother’s NARAL. It’s your grandmother’s NARAL.

So, NARAL has been joined at the hip with the Democratic Party forever and a day but always at least has occasionally pretended otherwise. But how do you maintain that posture when you’ve just installed Ilyse Hogue as president, a genuine radical and “a former senior staffer at Media Matters for America and” and other Democratic front groups? What’s your comeback when Lorber (accurately) observes that Hogue’s selection means “NARAL Pro-Choice America is more outwardly embracing its alliance with Democrats”?

You pretend that it’s all the fault of “an increasingly hostile Republican Party” whose membership (the story manages to convenient omit) you’ve torched.



Ultimately, NARAL’s new president was brought in not for her expertise on promoting abortion but her skill at marketing. Whether the image makeover will work remains to be seen.