National Right to Life Committee

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National Right to Life Committee

The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) is a nonprofit organization that seeks to end legalized Abortion in the United States. Founded in 1973, following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 93 S. Ct. 705, 35 L. Ed. 2d 147 (1973), which held that women had a constitutional right to abortion, the NRLC has become the leading antiabortion organization in the United States. It has more than 7 million members, with 3,000 local chapters and 50 state affiliates. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and has an annual budget of more than $9 million. The National Right to Life News, a biweekly newsletter, has a circulation of 135,000.

From its inception, the NRLC has sought the passage of a constitutional amendment banning abortion. Though this effort has not been successful, the NRLC has played an important role in state and federal legislation regulating and restricting abortion, and has been instrumental in restricting government funding of abortions to poor women. The NRLC has a Political Action Committee that endorses and campaigns for candidates who support its agenda, which includes opposition to some forms of Birth Control as well as physician-assisted suicide. The committee states that it does not take a position on issues such as contraception, sex education, Capital Punishment, and national defense.

The NRLC has lobbied for federal legislation banning partial-birth abortions. Though Congress passed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in 1996 and 1997, President bill clinton vetoed the measure both times. The act remained the highest priority of the NRLC, which has helped secure state legislation banning the abortion procedure in 17 states. It also supports legislation that would make it a federal offense to transport an individual age 17 or under across a state line for an abortion if this action circumvents the application of a state law requiring parental involvement in a minor's abortion.

The NRLC operates four outreach programs: National Teens for Life, American Victims of Abortion, National Pro-Life Religious Council, and Black Americans for Life. National Teens for Life organizes various activities for its teenage members, including speaking in schools and to youth groups, volunteering in crisis pregnancy centers, peer counseling, debating, and helping adult groups work to pass legislation. American Victims of Abortion is comprised of women who have had an abortion. This group lobbies legislators and seeks to educate the media about the physical and emotional risks associated with abortion. The National Pro-Life Religious Council seeks "to articulate the historic Judeo-Christian perspective concerning human life issues," and "to support efforts that discourage and prevent acts that dehumanize and harm women, the unborn, disabled persons, the elderly, and those who are medically dependent." Black Americans for Life attempts to discourage African American women from having abortions.

The NRLC political action committee spent over $2 million during the 1996 elections. In 1999, NLRC opposition to campaign finance reform caused a divisive split between the NLRC and pro-life Democrats who accused the organization of becoming increasingly identified with the Republican Party. The election of george w. bush as president in 2000 and the gain of Republican seats in both the House and Senate in 2002 strengthened the position of abortion opponents including the NRLC. As a number of state legislatures with anti-abortion majorities began to pass restrictive legislation, many analysts waited to see if Supreme Court retirements would lead President Bush to appoint a judge or judges who might vote to reverse Roe v. Wade, given the opportunity.

Further readings

Grunwald, Michael." Campaign Finance Issue Divides Abortion Foes." 1999. Washington Post (September 14).

National Right to Life Committee. Available online at <> (accessed July 30, 2003).


Abortion; Fetal Rights; Women's Rights.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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