NARAL Chooses Obama — Why Now?

May 14, 2008 3:38pm

FROM GUEST-BLOGGER RICK KLEIN, OF ABC’S THE NOTE

One of the nation’s leading abortion-rights groups endorsed Sen. Barack Obama on  Wednesday — in an announcement that’s raising eyebrows as much for its timing as for its substance.

NARAL Pro-Choice America’s political action committee has decided to drop its neutral stance in the Democratic primary  — in large part to send a signal that it’s ready to get behind the candidate board members view as the likely  nominee, according to the group’s political director, Elizabeth Shipp.

"A political organization always looks at viability — who has the most delegates, the most votes, and the most cash  on hand," Shipp told ABC News. "As a political organization, we’re not going to say it’s an easy decision, but it’s  the right one."

NARAL has been consistently supportive of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in her previous runs, for the Senate, and Shipp said the group supports her decision to stay in the race as long as she wants. Both Democratic candidate are "100  percent pro-choice," she said, and NARAL will not run any anti-Clinton advertisements, as it saves its resources for the general election.

Shipp said the PAC’s nine-member board made the unanimous decision to endorse Obama on Friday, after Clinton lost the North Carolina primary and won only narrowly in Indiana, leaving her with a steeper mathematical hurdle in her effort to catch Obama.

Shipp said the board wanted to send a signal that female voters are  ready to work for Obama — and said NARAL sees the value in having the Democratic nomination settled, to help make the case against Republican candidate John McCain.

"There was this growing perceived rift — ‘Are women going to be there for Barack Obama?’ " she said. "We know that at  the end of the day, we’re going to have to go after John McCain. We want people to know, ‘It’s OK, we trust [Obama.]‘  "

While NARAL does not make public the names of its board members, Shipp said the board includes both Democrats and  Republicans, as well as supporters of both Clinton and Obama — including one Clinton superdelegate.

The decision brought a sharp rebuke from a regular NARAL ally, EMILY’s List, a Clinton-backing group that’s dedicated to electing "pro-choice" Democratic women.

"I think it is tremendously disrespectful to Sen. Clinton — who held up the nomination of a FDA commissioner in order to force approval of Plan B and who spoke so eloquently during the Supreme Court nomination about the importance of  protecting Roe vs. Wade — to not give her the courtesy to finish the final three weeks of the primary process,"  EMILY’s List president Ellen R. Malcolm said in a statement. "It certainly must be disconcerting for elected leaders who stand up for reproductive rights and expect the choice community will stand with them."

In its endorsement announcement, NARAL was careful not to denigrate Clinton.

"Pro-choice Americans have been fortunate to have two strong pro-choice candidates in Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton,  both of whom have inspired millions of new voters to participate in this historic presidential race," NARAL president  Nancy Keenan said in a statement. "Today, we are proud to put our organization’s grass-roots and political support  behind the pro-choice candidate whom we believe will secure the Democratic nomination and advance to the general  election. That candidate is Sen. Obama."

– Rick Klein

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