January 4, 2013 — Salon recently interviewed NARAL Pro-Choice America President Nancy Keenan -- who has announced plans to step down -- about changes in the abortion-rights movement during her tenure at NARAL and the future of reproductive-rights advocacy.
Keenan, who has led NARAL for eight years, said one of the primary lessons of recent years is that "elections matter." She noted that "we immediately saw the attacks on reproductive rights" after conservatives gained many state and federal seats in the 2010 elections. The attacks continued to escalate last year and focused on access to contraception and abortion, she noted.
Keenan also discussed the Catholic Church's efforts to restrict abortion and fight the contraceptive coverage rules being implemented under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148). "I think their hypocrisy was exposed," she said, adding that "you cannot advocate banning all abortions in this country while not making contraception available to women." The election showed that people "understood that it's common sense, that women have access to birth control," she noted.
Keenan also commented on a 2008 speech in which she stated that a "woman's right to choose is a morally complex issue, and a lot less black and white than it's been made out to be." She reiterated this belief, saying that the abortion-rights movement is "about recognizing that women who choose abortion care are also women of faith."
She expressed concern about the "intensity gap" over abortion rights that she perceives between younger feminists compared with advocates her own age. "They are pro-choice, but they don't put the issue of protecting this decision at the top of their list," she said of the younger generation, adding, "There's a lot of work to be done on that front" (Carmon, Salon, 1/3).