A coalition of state affiliates today expressed disappointment that the national network, NARAL Pro-Choice America, has chosen to eliminate its affiliate structure. The national entity announced that they were not going to invest in state-based work through their current affiliate structure. For their part, state-based affiliates of NARAL national are vowing to work collaboratively with each other to develop a new configuration to share resources and ensure reproductive freedom in their respective communities. They intend to keep their promises to local communities, especially persons who are most impacted by restrictions on access to abortion, specifically, Black, Indigenous and other people of color, gender non-binary and LGBTQ people.
The collective of 11 affiliates released the following statement:
“In 2021, a national entity unilaterally decided they didn’t need to work with grassroots groups and that they knew better than the people on the ground,” said Maggie Meyer, Executive Director of the Minnesota Affiliate. “If that doesn’t raise alarm bells, I am not sure what will. NARAL national’s strategic roadmap appears to be focused on places where they can claim big ‘wins,’ not how they protect and advance access to reproductive health care. The truth is, in many states including Minnesota and much of the Midwest, defensive work is more urgent than ever. National organizations that claim to value reproductive justice should not cherry pick the fights in which they engage. Otherwise, we will have a movement that leaves the most vulnerable people who need pregnancy and parenting care behind.”
State affiliates have secured historic wins such as over-the-counter emergency contraceptives on college campuses, contraceptive equity legislation, codifying Roe v. Wade into state law in Connecticut, clinic escort legislation, reproductive non-discrimination laws, laws requiring transparency with crisis pregnancy centers, and more. The affiliates have also worked hard to defeat bills that would threaten abortion access such as the 6-week abortion ban legislation.
“While we are understandably dismayed with the decision of the national organization, we will continue to partner with fellow affiliates and partners in our states,” said Kellie Copeland, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. “What is happening with NARAL national is a cautionary tale to grassroots organizations and organizers that they be mindful of entities that try to co-opt the movement. Before the world knew the threat of the ‘heartbeat bill,’ we were fighting it here in Ohio. Our movement will suffer if independent, state- and local groups are not funded and valued.”
“We know that the key to protecting and expanding abortion access in Massachusetts and across our region is local, organized, grassroots advocacy. We know that, because it’s what we do,” said Rebecca Hart Holder, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts. “We can not take a step back, and we can not move away from the kind of local organizing that has proven so successful. It’s why we are so committed to continuing our mission here in Massachusetts. We aren’t going anywhere.”
Affiliates allege that as early as 2013, NPCA was contemplating eliminating the affiliate structure that governed the organization for decades. State affiliates vociferously protested the move though their concerns were ignored. With a recent vote to disaffiliate the network, the affiliates will unite to create a cohort that works for and with communities across the country.