The president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, one of the nation’s leading abortion-rights groups, will step down at the end of the year. Nancy Keenan’s decision comes as legislators nationwide are advancing laws to limit abortions or withhold funding from Planned Parenthood.
Keenan, who has headed the organization since 2004, is leaving when her contract expires. A search committee is seeking a replacement.
“Nancy directed efforts that reshaped the debate over reproductive rights, produced tremendous electoral wins for choice, and defeated attacks from anti-choice opponents,” Janet Denlinger, chairwoman of the board of directors for NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in a statement Thursday.
On its website, the group said that in 2006 and 2008 the organization worked with “affiliates in four states to defeat six anti-choice ballot measures.”
In recent months, however, anti-abortion forces have logged a number of victories.
Last Friday, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a law barring any public money -- city, county or state -- from going to Planned Parenthood, which offers a range of healthcare services as well as abortion.
A month earlier, Brewer signed a law barring most abortions after 20 weeks, saying it “recognizes the precious life of the preborn baby.” (Last year, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina and Oklahoma also enacted 20-week bans. Whether they will stand up in court is unclear.)
In March, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed a bill requiring women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion.
In April, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a law imposing new restrictions on the state’s sole abortion clinic – restrictions that could put the clinic out of business.
Meanwhile, a legal fight over funding for Planned Parenthood continues to play out in Texas.
And on the same day Brewer signed the Planned Parenthood measure, a bill that would have increased the availability of abortion in California stalled in the Legislature. That controversial proposal would have allowed some nurses, midwives and physician assistants to perform certain early abortions. The author, state Sen. Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego), withdrew the measure when it became clear the bill would not get out of committee.
NARAL’s Keenan said in a statement, “In the next eight months, I will focus on helping pro-choice candidates win elections.”
She also alluded to the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling that legalized abortion.
“In addition, I will work with my colleagues as we prepare to mark the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe vs. Wade,” she said. “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.”