updated 5/14/2008 1:43:07 PM ET 2008-05-14T17:43:07

Democrat Barack Obama has won the endorsement of NARAL Pro-Choice America, a leading abortion rights advocacy organization that has supported rival Hillary Rodham Clinton throughout her political career.

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The organization was set to announce the endorsement of its political action committee on Wednesday.

"Pro-choice Americans have been fortunate to have two strong pro-choice candidates in Senator Obama and Senator Clinton, both of whom have inspired millions of new voters to participate in this historic presidential race," NARAL president Nancy Keenan said in a statement.

"Today, we are proud to put our organization's grass-roots and political support behind the pro-choice candidate whom we believe will secure the Democratic nomination and advance to the general election. That candidate is Senator Obama," she added.

Officials said NARAL's political committee board was about evenly divided among Clinton and Obama supporters and that the decision to endorse was hard fought. Ultimately, the board voted unanimously to support the Illinois senator.

NARAL officials said the decision wasn't intended to be a snub of Clinton, who is running to be the first female president.

They said the board decided to back Obama over Clinton because he is overwhelmingly favored to win the nomination and to heal what the organization viewed as a growing rift between black voters and white female activists that the protracted Clinton-Obama contest may have caused.

The organization endorsed Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry in 2004 when he was well on the way to securing the party's presidential nomination.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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