Risky Business? Pac Decisionmaking in Congressional Elections

By Robert Biersack; Paul S. Herrnson et al. | Go to book overview

10 The National Abortion Rights Action League PAC: Reproductive Choice in the Spotlight

Sue Thomas

The National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) PAC was formed on August 5, 1977, to elect a pro-choice majority in Congress. NARAL (the national organization that formed the PAC) was concerned that abortion rights, guaranteed by the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, would be eroded by legislative action in Congress or the states. After Roe, pro-life activists had succeeded in passing legislation limiting abortion rights through spousal consent, twenty-four-hour waiting periods, and informed consent. Although almost all of these laws were subsequently struck down by the United States Supreme Court as antithetical to the spirit of Roe, leaders of NARAL realized that no guarantee existed to ensure that the Court would always protect this vital decision. Making contributions to supporters of reproductive choice was another avenue through which its preservation could be pursued.

NARAL PAC was formed to elect members of Congress who would protect women's reproductive rights in the event that the Supreme Court changed its view on the constitutionality of the right to privacy--the key to Roe v. Wade. During the early 1980s, the PAC concentrated on protecting pro-choice incumbents, but Supreme Court decisions in recent years have changed the dynamics of the abortion issue. Two cases--Webster v. Reproductive Health Services in 1989 and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey in 1992--allowed states to impose restrictions on access to abortion. The return of the abortion issue to the legislative arena had a dramatic impact on NARAL PAC's strategy in the 1992 congressional elections. Suddenly the PAC

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