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NARAL Affiliates Question Obama Endorsement

By Garance Franke-Ruta
NARAL Pro-Choice America affiliates in key swing and primary states are openly distancing themselves from the decision by NARAL Pro-Choice America to endorse Illinois Sen. Barack Obama over Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to be the Democratic nominee for president.

Since yesterday's announcement, NARAL groups in Pennsylvania, Missouri, Oregon, Washington, Texas and New York -- Clinton's home state -- have issued statements signaling their continued neutrality in the Democratic race and emphasizing that the national group did not speak for them on this matter. These groups represent nearly a quarter of NARAL's state chapters.

"This decision was not made in consultation with the affiliate network and NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon will not be endorsing a candidate in this race," said executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon Michele Stranger Hunter in a statement. "We are proud to have two strongly pro-choice candidates running for President. And we look forward to supporting whoever the nominee will be and are committed to defeating Senator John McCain (R-AZ) in November."

Democrats in Oregon go to the polls on May 20 in one of the last primaries of the cycle.

NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri felt so strongly about staying neutral its president recorded a robocall in the wake of the announcement, which the group then sent to 8,500 households emphasizing its neutrality. "In our membership demographic, a lot of longtime women's rights supporters are strong supporters of Hillary Clinton," Sumners told the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

"If we had been consulted, we would have said, 'Let this play out,' " she said.

NARAL Pro-Choice Washington emphasized its neutrality by praising both remaining Democratic candidates. "In the Senate and in their public lives, both Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama have been leaders for a woman's right to choose," said Karen Cooper, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington. "Sen. Clinton has worked with our own Sen. Patty Murray to help make birth control more accessible for the women who need it. She, like Sen. Obama, is a co-sponsor of the Federal Freedom of Choice Act, which would put the findings of Roe v. Wade into federal law. Time and again, both Sens. Clinton and Obama have stood up for the right to privacy and the right to choose."

"American women would be well-served by either Clinton or Obama in the Oval Office," Cooper added.

NARAL Pro-Choice New York issued a statement calling the national endorsement "premature" and emphasizing that "this decision was made internally by NARAL Pro-Choice America, based in Washington D.C., and without the consultation of the NARAL state affiliates across the country."

"NARAL Pro-Choice New York will not be issuing an endorsement at this time," the group continued.

NARAL Pro-Choice Pennsylvania echoed the New York group's statement, calling the endorsement "premature."

And NARAL Pro-Choice Texas chose mainly to emphasize that the endorsement of Obama had nothing to do with them, and would have nothing to do with them, rather than publicly renouncing the national endorsement as some of the other groups had. "As NPCT has no federal PAC, our state affiliate can only participate in statewide campaigns, not national ones such as presidential or congressional races. NARAL Pro-Choice America PAC is the only entity authorized to make federal endorsements," the group said in a terse statement posted on its website. "There is no consultation role for NPCT or other state affiliates in this process."

By Washington Post Editor  |  May 15, 2008; 9:21 AM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama , Hillary Rodham Clinton  
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