A veteran of the labor movement, Vicki Saporta has brought her pro-union activism to bear on her role, from 1995-2019, as president of the National Abortion Federation (NAF), applying her well-practiced publicity skills to the task of upholding the NAF’s commitment to abortion-on-demand.
Saporta began her activist career in 1974, as a representative for the Western Conference of Teamsters; she became an organizer for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters the following year. Rising swiftly through the ranks, in 1983 Saporta became the first woman to hold the post of Director of Organizing at the Teamsters’ Union. For two decades she canvassed the U.S., conducting countless election campaigns for the Union.
Employing the lessons she learned during her tenure with the Teamsters, Saporta cut a tough profile as NAF president and CEO, brooking no compromise on abortion issues and evincing no reluctance about branding all political opponents as “extremists.” Such hard-line tactics were manifested in the NAF’s opposition to the Bush administration’s choice, in 2001, of John Ashcroft for the office of Attorney General. Under Saporta’s direction, the NAF loosed a series of vituperative attacks on the nominee. One January 2001 press release imputed that Ashcroft’s confirmation would imperil the safety of abortion providers: “We fear an increase in the levels of violence directed against the dedicated health care professionals who provide safe, legal abortion services to women if Ashcroft becomes the next Attorney General,” Saporta stated. Tagging Ashcroft as an “extremist,” Saporta insisted, without evidence, that his views on abortion issues were too radical for even critics of the practice to support. Thus, wrote Saporta, “We urge all Americans, regardless of their position on a woman’s right to choose, to oppose Ashcroft’s confirmation as Attorney General because his extremist views are out of touch with mainstream America and would interfere with his vigorous enforcement of the law.” Making common cause with the American Civil Liberties Union, Saporta would later lodge a contentious lawsuit against the Attorney General, challenging the Bush administration’s passing of legislation restricting so-called partial birth abortion.
Another activist technique routinely employed by Saporta was to characterize the unbendingly pro-choice NAF as an “unbiased organization.” This tactic allowed Saporta to assail the NAF’s opponents—typically judges who deviate from the group’s insistence on abortion-on-demand—as menacing partisans who were at odds with the American mainstream. Hence, in November 2002 Saporta couched her attack on Michael W. McConnell, a Bush administration appointee to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, as a defense of women’s rights, rather than what it was – a dispute over access to abortion. “The opposition to the nomination of Michael McConnell to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals is not about a ‘litmus test’ on abortion,” Saporta claimed in a letter to the Washington Post. “It is about women’s access to safe, legal abortion care.” Saporta has frequently condemned crisis-pregnancy centers, many of which are pro-life, for providing women with information about the unsavory physical, emotional, and moral issues that are inevitably raised by abortion. “Crisis-pregnancy centers entice women with free pregnancy tests and then provide them with misinformation in an effort to dissuade them from having an abortion,” said Saporta angrily.
With her talent for organizing, Saporta succeeded in aligning the NAF not only with fellow pro-choice organizations like Planned Parenthood and NARAL, but also with a host of other leftwing groups—all in an effort to assemble a grassroots movement of activists to take up the fight for the NAF’s platform of abortion-on-demand, both in the United States and in countries throughout the world. Accordingly, Saporta, in addition to her duties with the NAF, also served as an officer of the National Council of Women’s Organizations. She also sat on the advisory council of the Women’s Information Network, a Washington, D.C.-based group that styles itself as the capital’s “premier professional, political, and social network dedicated to empowering young, Democratic, Pro-choice women.”
Not merely a successful organizer, Saporta also boasts a flair for fundraising, and as the head of NAF, she made significant inroads into the checkbooks of leading leftwing financiers, forging alliances with philanthropists like George Soros and a number of wealthy foundations. These relationships proved exceedingly fruitful for the NAF, tripling the organization’s budget.
In 2017, NAF paid Saporta a salary of $392,018, according to the organization’s publicly available tax records.
Saporta stepped down as NAF’s president and CEO in October 2019. She was succeeded in that post by Katherine Ragsdale.