PLI President Gloria Totten in the New York Times

Posted on December 1, 2021

…Having lost at the Supreme Court, anti-abortion organizations set out to restrict abortion in cities and states. By the late 1970s, the leading anti-abortion group at the time, the National Right to Life Committee had a staggering 3,000 local chapters.NARAL, meanwhile, devoted so few resources to its state affiliates that by the 1990s its national field department quit in protest, according to Gloria Totten, NARAL’s political director from 1996 to 2001.

As state groups left the organization or were pushed out, the number of affiliates shrank to 11. This summer, NARAL announced it was getting rid of its affiliates altogether, shifting to a chapter model that will give the national organization more control.

To Ms. Totten, the move is baffling. “The entire strategy right now should be on winning state elections so that we can pass proactive abortion-rights legislation,” said Ms. Totten, who has focused much of her career on building progressive power in the states. “That’s the path forward: Go big or keep getting trampled.”

[This column also quotes former PLI Reproductive Rights director Aimee Arrambide.]

2020…was the election when it became clear to Aimee Arrambide just how outgunned she was in Texas. Her reproductive-rights group, Avow, used to be an affiliate of NARAL but broke away in January to pursue its own “bold and unapologetic” agenda. Like the rest of NARAL’s affiliates, the group had always had to raise its own budget, outside of the occasional joint fund-raiser or grant that state groups could compete against one another for.

Last year, Ms. Arrambide’s political action committee spent $6,000 on digital ads in two districts to support pro-choice candidates in races for the Texas legislature. Meanwhile, the political action committee Pro-Life America spent well over $100,000 on mailings, text messages, phone calls and digital ads in the same two districts. One of those races ended up being decided in favor of the Republican incumbent by just over 200 votes. “That’s basically what we’re up against in most of the state and local work that we do,” Ms. Arrambide said.