Largest U.S. Teachers' Union Endorses Abortion

NEA passes resolution defending the 'fundamental right to abortion'

NEA president Lily Eskelsen García / Getty Images
July 9, 2019

The National Education Association approved a new "business item" expressing support for abortion access during its annual conference in Houston.

"[T]he NEA will include an assertion of our defense of a person's right to control their own body, especially for women, youth, and sexually marginalized people," the resolution states. "The NEA vigorously opposes all attacks on the right to choose and stands on the fundamental right to abortion under Roe v. Wade."

The NEA is the largest teachers' union in the U.S. with more than 3 million members. It collected nearly $400 million from American educators in 2018, according to federal labor filings. The union is also one of the most politically active in the country, spending $70 million on politics and lobbying in 2017 and 2018. Nearly all of the union's political action committee spending went to Democrats during the midterm cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The resolution, known as New Business Item 56, takes direct aim at the Trump administration.

"The most misogynistic forces, under Trump, want to abolish the gains of the women's rights movement," the business item later states. "Women's leadership is essential for any successful egalitarian movement and therefore must be protected."

Pro-life groups and teachers have expressed their outrage regarding the NEA's abortion support. Rebecca Friedrichs, founder of For Kids & Country and a 28-year public school teacher, says she and her fellow pro-life educators are not surprised by the NEA’s announcement.

"NEA's 2019 adopted New Business Items (NBIs) reveal what savvy teachers have known for decades: state and national teachers' unions are essentially the political action committee of the Far-Left," she told the Washington Free Beacon in an email. "As a conservative teacher, I am appalled that the NEA has the audacity to call me and teachers like me 'the most misogynistic forces.' On one thing we agree — female leadership should be protected — but not at the cost of another's life."

Friedrichs is one of the most prominent challengers to organize labor's influence on government in the country. In 2016, the Supreme Court deadlocked on her challenge to mandatory union fees for public sector workers following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Her case served as a warm-up for the 2018 Janus v. AFSCME decision in which the Court—with Trump-appointed Justice Neal Gorsuch—ruled 5-4 that collecting labor union fees from non-members is a violation of the First Amendment because dues are considered political speech. Friedrichs said the union's endorsement of a "radical agenda" on abortion would alienate pro-life teachers who continue to pay dues.

"I am pro-woman and I am pro-life. How dare the NEA assert the two are mutually exclusive," she said. "The ratification of NBI 56, and others like it, reveals their arrogance — NEA assumes all teachers agree with their radical agenda. WE DO NOT."

The union's endorsement of abortion also rankled pro-life activists, who said a union that purports to serve children should not target its future students. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, is encouraging pro-life teachers and parents to stand up for their beliefs by vocally opposing the NEA's abortion stance.

"For more than three decades the NEA has denied taking a pro-abortion position. This vote removes all doubt about where they stand," she said in a release. "It is appalling and flies in the face of logic that America’s largest educators' union, claiming to speak for more than three million members nationwide, would side with the extreme abortion lobby in embracing an explicitly anti-child and anti-family stance. Furthermore, while purporting to be non-partisan, the Assembly went on record attacking President Trump and his pro-life agenda."

The resolution contradicts previous union statements about its approach to politics. The NEA has repeatedly attempted to debunk claims that it supports abortion.

"NEA does not have a pro-abortion policy. Period. Yet its stance on this issue is often misinterpreted and misunderstood," the union once stated in a document titled "The Truth About NEA."

The NEA did not respond for comment.