Nancy Keenan, president of the advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America, announced on Thursday that she plans to step down from her leadership position in January 2013 in order to make room for a younger leader and a new generation of reproductive rights activists.
“There’s an opportunity for a new and younger leader,” Keenan, 60, told the Washington Post, which broke the story. “Roe v. Wade is 40 in January. It’s time for a new leader to come in and, basically, be the person for for the next 40 years of protecting reproductive choice.”
Keenan took the helm of NARAL in 2004 after spending years working in Montana politics. Under her leadership, NARAL's lobbying and endorsements helped to elect 44 pro-choice members of the House of Representatives and eight pro-choice U.S. senators, prompting National Journal to rank it second among the nation's top 21 most influential political organizations in 2008. And after anti-abortion Republicans swept the 2010 elections, NARAL and its state affiliates sent over one million messages to federal and state lawmakers in opposition to attacks on reproductive rights.
"Leading NARAL Pro-Choice America for nearly eight years has been a privilege," Keenan said in a statement. "In building a great organization, there is no single defining action, no single election cycle, nor one leader that makes it successful. It is a combination of the talented and dedicated staff, state affiliates, member activists, and boards. These individuals work every day to protect women's reproductive rights. I am so very proud to have worked side by side with all of them."
While the board of NARAL has not yet found a replacement for Keenan, it has appointed a search committee to begin the process of finding a new leader. In the meantime, Keenan will continue her work to elect pro-choice politicians in the November elections and to engage younger generations with the cause.
"Nancy Keenan is committed to seeing us through this transition and ensuring that the future of NARAL Pro-Choice America remains strong and vibrant," said Janet Deninger, chair of the board of directors. "We have every confidence that we will find and engage a new leader by the end of this year."
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