The New York Times Magazine today published a major investigative piece detailing how an extreme anti-abortion coalition — led by right-wing judicial activist Leonard Leo — came together in the wake of the 2016 election to plot the downfall of Roe and craft a wide-ranging plan to undermine abortion access nationwide.

Leonard Leo and his anti-abortion coalition clearly saw Dobbs as the beginning of a new phase of anti-abortion work — one that goes to extreme lengths to overturn precedent, stack the courts, and infuse dark money to push a draconian agenda that is wildly unpopular among everyday Americans. Leonard Leo, Alliance Defending Freedom, and other players leading these radical efforts should be held accountable for their manipulation of every level of government — from our nation’s highest court to individual state legislators — to push their own dangerous, unpopular agenda.”

Accountable.US president Caroline Ciccone

New York Times Magazine highlights:

“The anti-abortion movement lacked the critical mass needed in Washington and the control of courts to end federal abortion rights. But now, with Trump, who promised to name ‘pro-life judges,’ in the White House, there was a new vista before them…Leo, the force behind this network, arrived at the Mayflower after spending the day at Trump Tower in New York. He met with the president-elect and his top aides about turning the list of Supreme Court justice candidates that Leo curated into legal reality…Now, with Trump positioned to nominate one of its own, Leo’s movement stood on the verge of an enormous triumph, with a court that would once again be dominated by Republican-appointed justices — and those who were firmly on the side of restricting abortion. Trump confirmed in the meeting that if someone was not on the list, that person would not be considered.”

“The story of how an elite strike force of Christian lawyers, activists and politicians methodically and secretly led the country down a path that defied the will of a majority of Americans, who wanted abortion to remain legal, has been hidden until now. The ultimate aim of this behind-the-scenes conservative coalition, which powered one of the most significant political resurgences the United States has ever seen, went far beyond questions of when — and if — a pregnancy can be legally ended. For them, the fall of Roe was not an end but a beginning in their effort to make all abortion illegal and, in effect, roll back the sexual revolution.”

“But even as [Becky Currie, a Mississippi nurse and legislator] proudly championed the bill, she would not know the full story behind it until after Roe fell more than five years later. In an interview, she explained that she thought her vision for a 15-week cutoff, rooted in her foundational story of the beating fetal heart, had driven the plan. No one had told her that [Alliance Defending Freedom] had coordinated its strategy…before their meeting, or that 15 weeks was part of its specific legal plan to undermine Roe, she said. Or that [Wisconsin solicitor general] Misha Tseytlin had brainstormed this possibility at Leonard Leo’s Federalist Society cocktail hour and advanced it at an upscale California resort alongside Republican leaders and attorneys.”

“Seven days before the 2020 presidential election, Leonard Leo tuned in from his home in Maine to watch his close friend Clarence Thomas swear in [Amy Coney] Barrett to the court. Watching her raise her right hand felt like the culmination of the entire project. It was, he said in an interview, ‘exhilarating.’”

“[Alliance Defending Freedom leaders’] ultimate goal was sweeping change across America to preserve the values of conservative Christians. A.D.F. was, after all, a ‘religious ministry,’ not just a legal network, as Kristen Waggoner said in an interview. Ending abortion was the first target, but A.D.F. had already begun planning for more.”

“A.D.F. lawyers would work to reverse the Supreme Court’s 1990 decision in Employment Division v. Smith, to ‘fully protect the free exercise of religion,’ the strategy document explained…They would target L.G.B.T.Q. rights and protections and ‘stop efforts to elevate sexual orientation and gender identity to protected-class status in the law akin to race.’ They would ‘work to restore an understanding of marriage, the family and sexuality that reflects God’s creative order.’

And they wanted the court to strengthen parental rights over state authority by having the court revisit the 2000 case Troxel v. Granville, which allowed the state to override a parent’s wishes in some circumstances. A.D.F. would work to pass state legislation, similar to its approach on abortion, that would prioritize parental rights in medical decisions for minors who say they are transgender, to prevent parents from ‘being coerced into consenting to life-changing, ill-advised surgeries and procedures in the wake of gender dysphoria.’”

Learn more about Leonard Leo’s decades-long scheme to overturn Roe and his sprawling dark money network at


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