Records of the National Abortion Rights Action League, 1968-1976
- National Abortion Rights Action League (Organization)
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Use
Copying. Open records may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.
9.25 linear feet ((8 cartons, 2 file boxes, 2 half file boxes) plus electronic records)
The records contain by-laws; minutes of annual meetings; correspondence, mailings, and other material related to annual meetings; minutes, correspondence, and mailings to and from the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee; reports and some correspondence of the Executive Director; some correspondence of the Director of Field Service; minutes, mailings, and correspondence of various committees; some financial and membership records; correspondence files by subject, and by state; and mailings, newsletters, and other publications.
Many sections, most notably financial and membership records, are incomplete for the years covered. Information on the First National Conference on Abortion Laws, which led to the founding of the organization, is also sparse, although some correspondence about it may be found in the state correspondence ("Illinois, 1968 - July 1969"). The following kinds of records have not yet been located: documentation of program planning for the annual meetings; records of founders, officers, and staff; tapes, films, and paper documentation of television and radio ads or of televised panel discussions.
Files labeled correspondence by state include correspondence about setting up and working with state affiliates, correspondence with Board members residing in the respective states, membership correspondence, acknowledgments of donations, requests for information, reports on meetings with state representatives, and other papers. Much of the correspondence during NARAL's first few years was filed by the state of the sender.
Files labeled subject correspondence originally formed a correspondence and reference file, with printed materials interfiled with the correspondence. A complete list of original folder headings is in the first folder of the series. Printed material was removed by the Schlesinger Library archivist and transferred to the Librarian. This series now contains correspondence and relevant printed material. NARAL's folder headings have been retained.
In general, NARAL's filing system has been retained, except that most of the printed reference material, originally filed throughout the collection, has been removed and transferred to the book division of the Schlesinger Library. Since all the major correspondence series contain similar material, it is often necessary to search in several places for a certain record. For example, correspondence with a Board member serving on the Executive Committee while residing in Minnesota may be in Board correspondence, state correspondence (for Minnesota), subject correspondence, or Executive Committee correspondence, or in two or more of these categories.
Because the records are relatively incomplete at this time, they have not been divided into series, nor have the folders been numbered.
NARAL's web site is being captured periodically as part of Harvard University Library's Web Archive Collection service (WAX); searchable archived versions of the web site will be available through this finding aid in 2010.
The Planning Committee, meeting regularly between February and September 1969, defined NARAL's purpose and program, drafted by-laws to submit to the membership for approval, prepared a slate to run for the Board of Directors, and directed NARAL's activities. The Committee defined NARAL's purpose as follows:
NARAL, recognizing the basic human right of a woman to limit her own reproduction, is dedicated to the elimination of all laws and practices that would compel any woman to bear a child against her will. To that end, it proposes to initiate and co-ordinate political, social, and legal action of individuals and groups concerned with providing safe abortions by qualified physicians for all women seeking them regardless of economic status.
The original NARAL program had six parts:
- 1. Assist in the formation in all states of direct political action groups dedicated to the purpose of NARAL;
- 2. Serve as a clearing house for activities related to NARAL's purpose;
- 3. Create new materials for mass distribution which tell the repeal story dramatically and succinctly;
- 4. Train field workers to organize and stimulate legislative action;
- 5. Suggest direct action projects;
- 6. Raise funds for the above activities.
From 1969 till early 1973, NARAL worked with other groups to repeal state abortion laws and to oversee implementation of abortion policies in those few states that had liberalized their laws. On January 22, 1973, in Roe vs. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court held that, during the first three months of pregnancy, abortion should be a private decision between a woman and her doctor, and that during the second three months state regulation should be permitted only to protect the health of the woman. To reflect the Court's repeal of restrictive abortion laws, NARAL became the National Abortion Rights Action League in late 1973.
The Court decision did not settle the issue of women's right to choose abortion. Anti-abortion groups, funded predominantly by the Roman Catholic Church and some other religious organizations, stepped up their political activities, exerting pressure on hospitals, abortion clinics, state legislatures, and the U.S. Congress to limit, or prohibit, abortions. In response, NARAL began to recruit members and funds more actively, expanded its staff, moved its headquarters to Washington, D.C., to facilitate lobbying, and established a political action committee (NARAL PAC) to solicit funds and work on behalf of political candidates. Since its establishment in 1969, NARAL has sponsored workshops, symposiums, and conferences; initiated legal suits; raised funds; published and distributed educational materials; cooperated with numerous other groups in a variety of projects; and demonstrated, lobbied, and testified on behalf of women's right to legal, safe abortions.
NARAL's newsletters, press releases, mailings to members, and annual meeting minutes are a good source of information on the history, resolutions and policies, and activities of the organization, as well as information about abortion rights activities in the states and overseas. Additional published material about abortion, reproduction and birth control, activities of pro-choice and anti-abortion groups, and related information has been transferred from the NARAL subject files to the book division of the Schlesinger Library.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The records of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) were given to the Schlesinger Library beginning in November 1977.
- Box 1: 1-26
- Box 2: 27-32
- Cartons 1-8
- File boxes 9-10
By: Katherine Gray Kraft, Zephorene L. Stickney
- Abortion--Law and legislation--United States
- Abortion--Moral and ethical aspects
- Birth control
- Birth control--Moral and ethical aspects
- Constitutional amendments--United States
- Electronic records
- National Association to Repeal Abortion Laws
- Pro-choice movement
- Pro-life movement
- Teenage pregnancy
- Web sites
- Women's rights
- Women--Legal status, laws, etc.
- National Abortion Rights Action League. Records of the National Abortion Rights Action League, 1968-1976: A Finding Aid
- Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
- The collection was processed with a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (#79-4).
- EAD ID
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