United States of America: Kate Michelman

I decided that one of the most important ways I could contribute to healthier children and families was to empower women to bring children into the world under circumstances of their own choosing.

— Kate Michelman

In 2005, Kate Michelman announced that she was stepping down as president of Naral Pro-Choice America in order to help elect a pro-choice president of the USA. Under her leadership, Naral has become the nation's premier reproductive rights group. Kate's more than 20 years of advocacy have led to legalization of abortion and access to birth control information and devices. As she educates women about their bodies, Kate also awakens in them their right to autonomy and their right to live in a peaceful world, inspiring countless young women to join the struggle worldwide for women's rights.

Kate's empathy comes from personal understanding. In 1970, she was abandoned by her husband and left alone to care for her three young daughters. Shortly after her husband left, she discovered she was pregnant. Raised in a Catholic family, her decision to abort was a lonely one, and made at a time when abortion was illegal except when a mother's health or life were at stake. Even though the law interpreted the exception broadly, it required Kate to appear before an all-male hospital review panel to obtain permission for the abortion on the grounds that she was unstable and incapable of raising another child. The board granted her request, provided that her ex-husband also agreed. As she waited to get permission for the abortion, she carried with her the name and phone number of an illegal abortionist. Because her ex-husband gave his consent, the abortion was performed legally. "For me, the seeds of activism were planted in my own searing, humiliating experience with a pre-Roe abortion," she remembers. In speeches, Kate is likely to ask her audience three central questions: First, "Under what circumstances do we bring children into the world, and who makes the decision?" Second, "Should children be born by choice or under the heavy hand of government compulsion?" And third, "Should women be equal, contributing partners in society, or should they be held captive to their reproductive function for the entirety of their childbearing years? In short, who decides? Women or government?" Kate's influence has been well cited. In 1998, Vanity Fair named her one of America's 200 most influential women and a year earlier named Naral as one of the most influential special-interest groups in Washington D.C. In 1994, Fortune Magazine named Naral one of the top ten advocacy groups in America.

Naral Pro-Choice America