Kate Michelman is one of the most respected and influential women leaders in America today.
For nearly 20 years, she served as President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, catapulting the organization to prominence as the nation’s premier reproductive rights group—an achievement that has earned her a reputation as a nationally recognized expert not only on women’s issues but also on grassroots organizing and strategic organizational development. Under Kate’s leadership, NARAL Pro-Choice America transformed the political debate and positioned a woman’s right to choose as a fundamental American liberty. She has also been an academic, consultant and author.
Since retiring from NARAL, Kate has written her well received memoir – With Liberty and Justice for All, published by Penguin Books – authored op-eds that have appeared in major national publications including The New York Times and the Washington Post, lectured at universities and other venues nationwide and been a sought-after consultant and campaigner for advocacy organizations as well as candidates at all levels of government, from Congress to President. In 2004, she directed the Democratic National Committee’s “Campaign to Save the Court.” In 2008, she served as senior advisor on women’s issues for John Edwards’ presidential campaign, after which she endorsed and campaigned nationwide for Barack Obama. She has consulted for candidates for Congress and United States Senate as well. Kate assisted Advocates for Youth on a project to use her personal story to inspire young people to act on their beliefs. Currently she is a senior advisor on women’s health policy for the Women’s Law Project in Philadelphia.
During her time at NARAL, Kate was a frequent advisor to former President Bill Clinton. She worked closely with -- and her counsel has been sought by -- many of the most powerful leaders in America, from Senators to Cabinet Secretaries.
Vanity Fair Magazine named Kate one of America’s 200 Women Legends, Leaders. Washingtonian magazine named Michelman—a seasoned lobbyist and skilled political strategist—one of the capital’s 100 most powerful women and The Hill named her one of the top grassroots/non-profit lobbyists. While serving as NARAL’s President, Kate pursued a legislative agenda to keep abortion legal while making it less necessary and built NARAL Pro-Choice America into a dominant force in electoral politics at the state and federal levels. Fortune Magazine has described NARAL Pro-Choice America as "one of the top 10 advocacy groups in America."
Early in her professional career, Michelman was a specialist in early childhood development, with a discipline in developmental disabilities. Building on her work with special-needs children in rural Pennsylvania on the edge of Appalachia, she developed a model multi-disciplinary diagnostic treatment program for developmentally disabled preschool children and their families.
Michelman, who first honed her organizing skills in the civil-rights movement, dedicated her life to women’s equality and health with a focus on reproductive freedom after her own humiliating experience with a pre-Roe v. Wade abortion in 1969 when abortion was largely illegal. In order to obtain a hospital “therapeutic” abortion to avoid injury and possible death in a back alley procedure she was required by law to obtain the consent of the husband who had deserted their family as well as a hospital panel comprised entirely of men.
Prior to joining NARAL Pro-Choice America in 1985, Michelman was executive director of Planned Parenthood in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where she expanded the range of reproductive health services available in the area. She also trained medical students and residents in child development as a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Pennsylvania State University School of Medicine. She has also been a Fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard University.
Michelman was married for nearly 40 years to the late Fred Michelman. She has three daughters and six grandchildren.