May 11, 2012 — NARAL Pro-Choice America President Nancy Keenan on Thursday announced that she will leave her post at the end of the year, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 5/10). Keenan has led the organization since 2004.
In a statement, NARAL credited Keenan's leadership for helping to elect abortion-rights supporters to 44 House and eight Senate seats in 2006 and 2008. Keenan "elevated NARAL as the leader in fighting attacks on choice," Rosalyn Levy Jonas, chair of the board of directors for the NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, said, adding, "We will build on these achievements, as we continue to protect safe, legal abortion and other reproductive-health care" (Huetteman, "The Caucus," New York Times, 5/10).
Keenan's decision comes as attacks on abortion rights continue to escalate at the state and federal levels. Earlier this year, NARAL noted in a report that states passed a near-record number of abortion restrictions in 2011, adding that the trend likely would continue throughout 2012 (Nather, Politico, 5/10).
Energizing Young People
Keenan said she will spend her last eight months "helping pro-choice candidates win elections" (Peralta, "The Two-Way," NPR, 5/10). In an interview with the Washington Post's "Wonkblog," Keenan stressed the need for abortion-rights advocates to better engage and energize young people. One way to do that is by elevating younger people to leadership roles, she said.
"It's time for a new leader to come in and, basically, be the person for the next 40 years of protecting reproductive choice," Keenan said. By 2020, millennials will account for 40% of the electorate, according to "Wonkblog." A 2010 survey by NARAL found that 26% of voters under age 30 who support abortion rights consider it to be a "very important" issue, compared with 51% of their antiabortion-rights peers.
NARAL already has begun refocusing its messaging and continues to research how younger voters think about abortion rights. The organization will roll out a more extensive campaign to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade in January (Kliff, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 5/10).