Cornell University

November 16 2012

"Choice in America"

Saporta '74 discusses complexities of national abortion debate

Vicki Saporta '74Elections do matter.

Re-electing President Barack Obama, an advocate for a woman's right to choose, definitely matters in helping to advance pro-choice support, says Vicki Saporta '74.

President and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, Saporta spoke to ILR students and others in the Cornell community at a Tuesday lecture, "Choice in America: What it Means to be Pro-Choice Today."

In some key political races this fall, Saporta says, the abortion issue was a major factor affecting voter outcomes.

As an example, she points to U.S. Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), who lost the Missouri U.S. Senate race. Saporta says Akin's comments about his opposition to abortion, even in cases of rape, probably cost him the election.

Saporta cited a recent CNN poll showing that a majority of Americans do not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned. Roe v. Wade is the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.

Throughout her lecture, Saporta asked questions to gauge perceptions. To start, she asked people in the audience to raise their hands if they considered themselves to be pro-choice, pro-life or both.

While most indicated they are pro-choice, Saporta stressed that "being pro-choice doesn't mean you are also anti-life."

"Many pro-choicers are also pro-life because they are concerned about the health, safety and lives of women and children. Pro-choice also means that women can only achieve true equality when they can control their own bodies."

Saporta, the first woman to hold the post of director of organizing at the Teamsters' union, covered many topics in her presentation that illustrate the complexity of the pro-choice/pro-life debate and why it has become such a polarizing issue.

For example, there are new laws in some states, she says, that require women seeking abortions to receive and view an ultrasound showing the fetus.

"Two recent studies show that the majority (of those interviewed) said they wanted to see the ultrasound, but it didn’t change their minds."

She also talked about questions surrounding Medicaid coverage for procedures and the lack of public funding, which she considers the "biggest barrier for women seeking abortions."

"You can't be pro-choice and allow low-income women less access to care than wealthier women," Saporta said.

As she concluded, Saporta brought up a final slide that read, "Freedom of choice. More than a right. It is right."

She also reminded the audience that elections make a difference, not just for pro-choice advocacy, but for "employment law, workers' rights and other things you study here at ILR."