The demand for the federally protected abortion pill spiked after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, drawing the attention and ire of the anti-choice movement, a group desperately in need of a new enemy. After months of grassroots lobbying and legal action, anti-abortionists achieved their biggest win since Dobbs. Now, all eyes are on Texas after an activist judge made the stunning decision to ban medication abortion nationwide.
Who was the driving force behind this effort? The same man most responsible for the Dobbs decision: rightwing judicial activist, Leonard Leo.
In his many years as Executive Vice President of the Federalist Society, Leo masterminded a strategy to strip Americans of their reproductive freedom — leading a decades-long effort to stack courts across the country with anti-abortion extremists. Leo has also been pivotal in moving every piece on the chess board: selecting anti-choice judges for two presidents, challenging abortion rights at all levels of government and bankrolling anti-choice advocacy.
His efforts extend to a position on the board of the Becket Fund, the legal power behind the Hobby Lobby case and that also filed an amicus brief in the Dobbs Supreme Court case complaining about the Affordable Care Act’s coverage of contraception.
Since Dobbs, he’s been at the forefront of the war on the abortion pill.
As the Co-Chairman of Students For Life of America, Leo serves as the point man for student groups across the country as they attempt to “abolish abortion.” With Leo at the helm, Students for Life led the charge to ban medication abortion — the last remaining option for women in many states.
After the FDA issued a ruling allowing pharmacies to distribute abor6on pills, Students for Life sprang into action, mounting a pressure campaign against CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens, as they weighed distributing the medication at their pharmacies. They even went a step further, attempting to manipulate environmental protection laws to intimidate doctors from providing care to women.
Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, another anti-choice, Leo-funded group, also set its sights on outlawing the abortion pill. In the immediate aftermath of the FDA’s rule, SBA began lobbying Republican lawmakers to restrict access through shipping regulations or increased “safety” standards. SBA President Marjorie Dannenfelser called for imprisoning “everyone who is trafficking these pills.”
These extremist actions just scratch the surface of Leo’s involvement. One of Leo’s handpicked, activist judges ruled on the case and rejected the FDA’s authority to regulate the abortion pill.
As Leo was jockeying for influence on Trump judicial picks, Matthew Kacsmaryk, an active member and founder of the Fort Worth Federalist Society chapter, found himself nominated for a federal judgeship. After Senate Republicans confirmed him, Leo’s consulting group started receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from Kacsmaryk’s old employer — allowing Leo to lay the groundwork for legal challenges on his favorite issues and make a profit at the same time.
Leo’s fingerprints are all over this case – by advising grassroots activists funding anti-choice groups, and propping up Judge Kacsmaryk, Leo continues to pull the strings in the anti-abortion movement. Now that Kacsmaryk has banned medication abortions, Leo and his cronies will start plotting their next target. And with friends in high places and $1.6 billion in the bank, no right is safe.