Organize and mobilize
NARAL members show up to protect and expand reproductive freedom
For nearly 50 years, NARAL has fought to expand abortion access and reproductive freedom by organizing and mobilizing pro-choice supporters across the country. Our success and our strength come from our million-strong members, who make it their business to talk with other people about how important abortion access is to the freedom, equality and prosperity of American women and families.
This year was no different. All across the nation, NARAL members knocked doors, shared their stories on social media, held their representatives accountable and demanded that presidential candidates address the crisis of abortion access on the national stage. While the results aren’t quite what we hoped for, we are empowered by the fact that the majority of voters—by a margin of well over 2 million— voted for Hillary Clinton, the biggest champion we’ve ever seen for reproductive freedom.
We worked hard in 2016 because we know just how much is at stake for reproductive freedom. Over the past few years, the crisis of abortion access in the United States has only gotten worse as anti-choice politicians at every level of government continue to pass restrictions on women and reproductive-health care providers. Our members showed up to make sure the voices of the 7 in 10 Americans who believe that abortion access should be legal were heard in 2016—and the next four years will be no different.
Organizing on the ground
Knocking doors and making calls to win
If we want to protect and expand Americans’ reproductive rights, we need to leverage our pro-choice power at every level of government. That’s why we hit the ground running in 2016 by kicking off new field programs in Iowa and Nevada and by working to elect pro-choice candidates up and down the ballot and across the nation.
Over the course of 2016, we endorsed over 100 pro-choice candidates. These candidates put pro-choice values front and center in their campaigns, and many went on to win: Kamala Harris of California, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire were all elected to represent their states in the U.S. Senate, and Pramila Jayapal is heading to Washington D.C., to represent Washington’s 7th Congressional District.
To make sure these candidates won on Election Day, NARAL worked to lift up their pro-choice records and highlight just how much their anti-choice opponents had done to restrict reproductive freedom in the United States.
In states like New Hampshire and Nevada, NARAL rolled out a field and digital campaign to shine a light on the members of the Trump Squad—anti-choice politicians who, like Donald Trump, work tirelessly to roll back reproductive freedom and think women should be punished for choosing abortion. We created player cards and a playbook that we handed out at candidates’ campaign stops around the country to make sure constituents knew these candidates’ real and dangerous views on reproductive-health care.
Later in the fall, we invested $400,000 in ads against three particularly dangerous Senate candidates and Trump Squad members who tried to run and hide from Donald Trump despite their shared anti-women agenda—Joe Heck (R-NV), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and Pat Toomey (R-PA). These digital ads were targeted at key persuadable voters in competitive Senate states (particularly those in New Hampshire and Nevada) and garnered over 47,000 digital impressions.
Another key part of our electoral strategy: making sure we got pro-choice candidates elected to state legislatures. We knew we had to throw our support behind these candidates because state legislatures have been on the front lines of the fight for reproductive freedom. Anti-choice groups have used state houses to push abortion restrictions that would never fly on the national level—and it was time we took our fight there.
This strategy, first reported on by Politico, included endorsements and investments in Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada and Washington. NARAL’s endorsement of pro-choice candidates in these states came as part of a coordinated strategy to layer paid advertising, mail and field investments in state legislative districts located in competitive U.S. House, U.S. Senate and presidential battleground races. With this strategy, we were able to get pro-choice voters to the polls for candidates up and down the ballot.
From the article:
“They call this approach “layering,” and are also deploying it in Colorado, Iowa and Minnesota. In Colorado, NARAL is endorsing Dan Kagan for state Senate. Kagan’s district is in Colorado’s 6th District, where Democrat Morgan Carroll is trying to unseat the perpetually vulnerable Rep. Mike Coffman. “That’s the key to make sure we get to a pro-choice majority in the Colorado State Senate,” Foster said. “We’ve got to make sure voters know if they want to keep abortion safe and legal, they’ve got to vote for Hillary Clinton and they’ve got to vote for Dan.”
Wherever we were on the ground, we were there early and often. NARAL was one of the first organizations on the ground during the Democratic primaries. We worked to mobilize pro-choice voters in Iowa, organizing on college campuses and knocking doors to make sure people brought their values to the caucuses.
NARAL field organizer Gabby Weiss remembers just how exciting it was to connect with NARAL members and pro-choice voters early in the primary season:
For the first time ever, NARAL organizers were also on the ground in Nevada, where we rallied behind Senator-elect Catherine Cortez Masto; Representatives Jacky Rosen, Ruben Kihuen and Dina Titus; and candidates running for state legislature.
NARAL organizer Caroline Mello Roberson remembers being thrilled by the outpouring of support that fueled our program in Nevada:
Getting results from digital organizing around reproductive freedom
A huge part of mobilizing the pro-choice majority was rallying our members and supporters online. This year more than ever before, digital organizing was a tool that we used to carry out our campaign with great success, changing conversations from the dining room table to the presidential debate stage.
Here are two digital campaigns that highlight NARAL’s extraordinary online organizing power:
Over the course of the Democratic primaries, nine debates were held. But debate moderators did not ask one single question about reproductive freedom.
Our members knew what a huge problem this was, because they know how much voters stand to learn about a candidate when they talk about abortion access and reproductive freedom. When candidates discuss their views on abortion, voters can learn whether they have an understanding of the intersectionality of reproductive freedom and economic security. We wanted to hear which candidate understood that women and families can’t have true economic security without abortion access and which candidate didn’t brush off abortion rights as a “social issue.”
By the fifth Democratic primary debate, we couldn’t take it anymore. Moderators still hadn’t asked about abortion, and they also hadn’t asked a single question about birth control access, women’s health care, attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, clinic violence or low-income women’s access to reproductive health care. And thus the rallying cry was born: #AskAboutAbortion.
For eight straight months in 2016, our members called on the moderators of 15 primary and general election debates to #AskAboutAbortion and the crisis in access that hurts so many people in this country. During the Democratic primary debates alone, this hashtag reached over 20 million people through social media.
More than 50,000 NARAL and CREDO members, along with the leaders of EMILY’s List, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, CREDO, UltraViolet, All* Above All Action Fund, National Organization for Women and the Feminist Majority Foundation joined us in calling on debate moderators to #AskAboutAbortion. And at the third and final presidential debate, it happened: Chris Wallace asked a question about abortion in the context of the Supreme Court.
We were over the moon with this victory for NARAL and the pro-choice majority. We could not have done this without the tireless efforts of our supporters.
Hillary Clinton’s answer to the question set an example for how politicians need to talk about abortion access in the future. It showed her strength and leadership, and it made it clear that she has actually listened to real stories of real women who have faced decisions about abortion.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, reiterated his plan to appoint anti-choice justices to the Supreme Court and showed his complete ignorance of abortion as a medical procedure—answers that only proved he has no business meddling in a woman’s personal health-care decisions.
The conversation about abortion during the debate made the difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s positions on abortion access and reproductive freedom crystal clear. Glamour wrote that “Hillary Clinton’s debate response about abortion is exactly the one women needed to hear” and praised her for giving “one of the most clear and straightforward responses we’ve seen this election cycle.”
On March 30, 2016, Donald Trump made it clear how he really feels about women and our reproductive rights. In an interview on national television, he actually said women should be punished for having an abortion.
This is the same position held by extreme anti-choice politicians across the country. They may try to hide from their views when an election comes around, but this belief is central to their agenda as soon as they garner political power.
If anti-choice politicians were really interested in curbing abortion, they would work with us to make sure women have access to birth control and paid family leave. They would work with us to make sure no woman could lose her job or not get hired just because she is pregnant. But anti-choice politicians don’t do that. That’s because it’s not abortion that bothers them. It’s empowering women to live our own lives that bothers them.
Our members sprang into action, determined to hold Trump and the anti-choice movement accountable. They started #WontBePunished, a digital campaign that received widespread support and encouraged women to share their own real stories with others.
Victory at the Supreme Court
Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt
For the better part of a year, NARAL Pro-Choice America members rallied around Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt. This case would determine whether a restrictive, medically unnecessary law in Texas was unconstitutional because of the incredible burden it placed on women seeking abortion care. It also put the importance of protecting and expanding abortion rights into focus.
Countless NARAL members organized across the country to demonstrate just how dangerous the Texas law was to women, and how similar laws in states across the country negatively impacted a woman’s ability to get the health care she needed. Our members turned this case into a rallying cry for abortion access for all women, regardless of zip code.
When the Supreme Court made its decision in June, it ruled in favor of truth and freedom, deeming the Texas law unconstitutional. With this ruling, the Supreme Court powerfully reaffirmed a woman’s constitutional right to abortion, no matter where she lives or how much is in her bank account. The justices made it clear that they saw what we already knew: The Texas law under review and others like it have nothing to do with protecting women and everything to do with banning abortion and undermining our reproductive freedom.
The Democratic National Convention
Sharing an abortion story on the national stage
It’s not often that you have the opportunity to make history on a national stage with millions across the world watching. But that’s what NARAL did this year at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
The convention was already a big deal, seeing as this year’s Democratic Party platform was the best ever for reproductive freedom, and that our country would nominate a woman to be a major party presidential candidate for the first time ever.
Here’s what Ilyse had to say about her speech:
Women across the country and across the political spectrum rallied to support Ilyse for sharing her story.
Continuing the fight for reproductive freedom in 2017
NARAL members knocked doors, made calls, and had conversations across the country about the importance of reproductive freedom all the way up to Election Day 2016. We talked to and mobilized hundreds of thousands of voters from New Hampshire to Nevada who wanted to elect representatives who would stand up for reproductive rights, and therefore gender equality—not do everything in their power to dismantle it.
The election results may have been disappointing, but they cannot be read as a license for politicians to ignore the 7 in 10 Americans who support legal abortion and push forward an extreme agenda to ban abortion, dismantle health-care laws that have improved the lives of millions and roll back our fundamental rights. Yet we know that’s exactly what anti-choice extremists will try to do under the Trump administration in 2017. And we will be there to fight back.
We must remember: The fight for progress is never over, and it’s never easy. We have a long way to go in making sure every person in the United States, no matter where they live or how much they make, has access to a full range of reproductive health care, including abortion.
But we can’t do it alone. We need your support now more than ever. Here’s how you can join the ranks of the NARAL members who did so much great work this year:
- Sign up to march, knock, and call. We’ll need you by our side when we defend the Supreme Court, fight back against nationwide abortion bans and organize in every community to support our basic rights. Become a volunteer with NARAL Pro-Choice America — we’ve got work to do year round, not just during election years. And we need your help.
- Donate. Every single dollar counts. We need support to make our work happen, and we’ll be working harder than ever before over the next four years.
- Share your story. Sharing your story is a powerful way to speak out for choice. Your story can also bring about real change: It can inspire another person to speak out, and it could even help pass a pro-choice bill.
- Follow us on Facebook and on Twitter. Organizing in this day and age happens online. Show your friends and loved ones on your feeds how they can get involved or how you are standing up for reproductive rights yourself.
- Talk to your friends, family, co-workers and neighbors. Engage with people who cast a ballot for Trump. Hear their concerns. We know that regardless of how someone voted, the majority of Americans don’t want our elected leaders to ban abortion or make birth control more expensive. We need everyone — even Trump supporters — to stand with us in the coming years as we rally to defend our most basic rights.
- Call attention to the issues you care about by attending events with other advocates and participating in town halls and local government.
- Get NARAL’s updates on where and when we need you in the coming months. We’re holding a series of upcoming events and volunteer opportunities. Get our updates so you know when and where to be.
- Call your member of Congress and voice your support of reproductive freedom.
- Vote in local and state elections next year, and every year, because change happens at every level of government.