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A Change at NARAL Pro-Choice America

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After nearly eight wonderful years as the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, I informed our board of directors yesterday that my time as the leader of this amazing organization will come to an end in January 2013.

This decision was not an easy one, so I wanted to take time to say thank you and talk about our focus for the next eight months.

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, board members, allies in elected office, and activists like you. I am so very proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with all of you in protecting the values we share.

Since 2005, we have stood together as we lobbied 55 votes on choice-related issues in Congress and worked in partnership with our affiliates on more than 4,000 choice-related bills at the state level. We also played a leading role in electing President Barack Obama and other pro-choice champions across the country.

As we've done this work, I have had the privilege of traveling across this country meeting with women and men who take time out of their lives to fight to protect a woman's right to choose.

One example comes from South Dakota. In 2006 and 2008, voters in that state faced ballot measures that would have banned abortion. I met a woman who had driven 100 miles with her daughter and two teenage grandchildren to attend our affiliate's organizing event. She told me she came because she respects the work we do. But she also wanted to show her daughter and grandchildren what it means to stand up for what you believe--especially in the face of adversity. She went door to door in her hometown of 200 people to talk with her neighbors about why the abortion ban was wrong. It is because of the courage of individuals like her that South Dakotans defeated both abortion bans by wide margins.

I believe that stories can lead to change. A few years ago, we faced a growing trend of pharmacists at large retail chains, including CVS, the Kroger Co., and Walmart, who refused to fill women's prescriptions for birth control because they personally opposed contraception. Some courageous women who experienced the humiliation of being told in front of total strangers that they could not get the medication their doctor had prescribed stepped forward. They spoke out at press conferences and helped us channel thousands of messages to these corporations. We successfully pressured these pharmacies to adopt policies that require them to fill valid prescriptions without delay or harassment.

In the last two years, as politicians who told voters they would focus on the economy launched a War on Women, the profiles in courage have been especially inspiring and powerful in countering this far-reaching agenda.

Last year, Dana Weinstein stepped forward to speak in opposition to a bill that, among many bad things, would have banned insurance coverage of abortion in the new health-care system, regardless of the woman's situation. She shared the profoundly personal story at a press conference on Capitol Hill of why she and her husband decided to terminate a wanted pregnancy that had encountered unforeseen complications. As she talked about her experience and how this bill would harm women facing situations like hers, the room fell silent, and I watched as the eyes of members of Congress filled with tears.

More recently, I was proud to listen as U.S. senators read stories from our activists about the importance of family-planning services to women during debate on bills that would have defunded programs that provide contraception services and other basic care to millions of Americans. You helped us defeat legislation that would have been devastating for women.

I share these stories because I want you to draw inspiration from them for the road ahead.

In the next eight months, we will focus on helping pro-choice candidates win elections so we can end this War on Women--and I need your courage and conviction now more than ever.

Every election matters--but this one is especially important to choice. As you may know, in January 2013 we will mark the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, which recognized a woman's constitutionally guaranteed right to choose.

We all must work together to protect the values of freedom and privacy that Roe represents. That means you will continue to get messages from me and our state affiliates asking you to do a lot for choice, from supporting President Obama and other candidates to calling on lawmakers to oppose anti-choice attacks.

I am confident that our collective efforts will lead us to a fantastic celebration of Roe's 40th anniversary.

I look forward to proudly handing over the reins of this organization to a new leader, who will have pro-choice allies at all levels of government, thanks in part to the most passionate and effective membership base of any organization in this country.

Thank you for all you do to protect choice.

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