By Julia Peck
When anti-choice groups are trying to look reasonable, they often try to frame their assault on reproductive rights as a pro-democracy effort to let states decide how much freedom is allowed — wrongly, of course.
But sometimes they take off that mask and reveal their repressive long-term agenda. This includes plans to pack the Supreme Court for the express purpose of overturning Roe, ban abortion with few (or no) exceptions in the states, and target other treasured rights, like birth control.
In the following 11 quotes, they said the quiet part out loud.
…when they said they would pack the U.S. Supreme Court with judges picked to overturn Roe
1. Tom Carter, quoted in Daily Beast, July 24, 2018
Leonard Leo’s communications director when Leo was a Bush appointee
“[Leo] figured out twenty years ago that conservatives had lost the culture war. Abortion, gay rights, contraception — conservatives didn’t have a chance if public opinion prevailed. So they needed to stack the courts…The Christian right has been written about a lot, but hardly anyone talks about the Catholic right…Four Supreme Court justices — they’re more successful than anybody.” [It’s now five.]
Leo is known as Trump’s “judge whisperer” and leads a dark money network that has raised more than $580 million in recent years (including Students for Life of America, quoted many times below) to capture the Court. Following Carter’s statement, Trump nominated two judges whom Leo hand-selected, Brett Kavanaugh and then Amy Coney Barrett, solidifying the right-wing capture of the Court.
2. Marjorie Dannenfelser, PBS News Hour, June 16, 2022
President of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America (SBAPLA)
“Years ago, that idea that we would focus our energies and our strategy on a Supreme Court strategy was met with a lot of scoffing, because it just seems so hard…
The strategy worked. I mean, it was very simple. You can write it out in three sentences.
…In 2016, when we elected a president who would follow through on his promises to nominate only pro-life Supreme Court nominees…we would have a Senate to confirm those nominees….getting three confirmations was the setup then for finding the right case to test Roe vs. Wade, and we’re living with that now.
One [important decision] was Leader McConnell deciding to hold up the Merrick Garland nominee and wait until the election… if that nomination had gone through, we wouldn’t be sitting here right now and having this particular conversation.”
SBAPLA is a right-wing 501(c)(4) whose ultimate goal has been to “end abortion” in the U.S. It has received substantial funding from non-profits linked to Leo and billionaire Charles Koch. Dannenfelser is a member of the far-right Christian/Catholic nationalist Council for National Policy and sits on the board of the so-called Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
3. Denise Burke, 2018 Evangelicals for Life Conference (recording obtained by Right Wing Watch)
Senior Counsel at ADF
“We have a strategic plan, that is a comprehensive, start-to-finish, from when we’re considering legislation all the way up to the Supreme Court, to challenge Roe.
We’re basically baiting [the pro-choice movement]; come on, fight us on turf that we have already set up and established. We have very carefully targeted states based on where we think the courts are the best, where we think the governors and the A.G.s and the legislatures are going to do the best job at defending these laws.”
ADF, a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group, authored the “model” bill for the 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi that was challenged in Dobbs v. Jackson. The case was hand-picked by the right-wing faction that controls the Supreme Court for briefing and oral argument out of 8,000 requests, and then ADF coordinated amicus briefs to the Court to orchestrate the reversal of Roe v. Wade and decades of legal precedent.
…when they say they will replicate their dark money strategy to overturn abortion rights in the states
4. Dannenfelser, SBAPLA press release, June 13, 2022
“SBA Pro-Life America’s growing State Affairs team will replicate the organization’s success at the federal level by heavily investing in legislative, educational, and political engagement and leveraging pro-life electoral victories to advance life-saving law and policy.
This election cycle, SBA Pro-Life America and its entities plan to spend $78 million to protect life across America. This includes reaching eight million voters across battleground states – four million directly at their doors – to take back the U.S. House and Senate.”
…when they say they want total abortion bans with few-to-no exceptions
5. Kristan Hawkins, Students for Life of America blog post, June 24, 2022
President of Students for Life of America (SFLA)
“Mississippi was smart to use a 15-week limit to trigger a confrontation with Roe, but that was a tactic, not a goal. We must address early abortion because that is when most abortions take place.”
SFLA is an extreme anti-choice 501(c)(3) whose board of directors includes Leonard Leo and Greg Mueller, both of the right-wing PR and dark money donor operation dubbed “CRC Advisors” in 2020. In recent years, SFLA’s revenue has swelled and it launched a 501(c)4 action arm which has authored “model” legislation to destroy reproductive rights and lobbied heavily for extreme total abortion bans in over 24 states.
6. Burke of ADF, 2018 Evangelicals for Life Conference (recording obtained by Right Wing Watch)
“Once we get these first-trimester limitations in place, we’re going to go for a complete ban on abortion, except to save the life of the mother.”
7. Hawkins, SFLA blog post “It’s Official: We’re So Done with Rape and Incest Exceptions” (April 11, 2022) and LA Times “Rape exceptions to abortion bans were once widely accepted. No more” (April 8, 2022)
“Rape and incest are one of the abortion lobby’s favorite arguments. But that’s over now, as the LA Times reported: Students for Life of America led the charge to [ban abortion] no matter what happened on the night they were brought into existence.”
8. Hawkins of SFLA, Explicitly Pro-Life podcast, May 25, 2022
“Abortion…is never necessary to save the life of a woman. In fact, if a woman has to deliver, if she can no longer remain pregnant because remaining pregnant actually puts her life at stake, what happens and what doctors — good doctors — will do is they will deliver the child. So you may be talking about an early delivery, but you never talk about abortion. If she can’t be pregnant anymore, she can’t be pregnant anymore and you have to take her in for a C-section and do an early delivery.”
Fact check: There is substantial evidence from actual medical experts, unlike Hawkins, that abortion is sometimes necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman.
…when they say they will push for federal bans on abortion (debunking their own “states’ rights” argument for overturning Roe)
9. Roger Severino, Heritage Foundation Twitter Livestream, June 24, 2022
Vice President of Domestic Policy at the Heritage Foundation
“The federal government has an absolute role in this, there cannot be now two Americas: one America where unborn life is protected and another where unborn life is treated like medical waste….
Justice Kavanaugh in his concurrence said there is a role for states and Congress — he was very specific in saying ‘and Congress’ — to finally settle these questions. This has to be settled nationally. A house divided against itself cannot stand, we can’t have two classes of Americans. Congress has to step forward and protect unborn life.”
Heritage Foundation is a right-wing “think tank” founded from the fortunes of megadonors Joseph Coors, of the Coors beer empire, and Richard Mellon Scaife, heir of the Mellon industrial and banking fortune. It has also been significantly funded by the Koch fortune. Severino is the husband of Carrie Severino, president of the “Judicial Crisis Network”: one of the major dark money groups in Leonard Leo’s court-capture operation, which gave over $1.8 million to Heritage in 2020.
10. Hawkins of SFLA, 2022 National Pro-Life Summit (quoted in New York Times), January 22, 2022
“We want to see the decision on abortion to go back to the states, where we will then fight a 50-state battle. Is that where we will stop? No.”
“Let me just tell you what the secret is,” she added: “The ultimate goal is a constitutional amendment barring abortion throughout America. But that takes time.”
…when they say they want to ban birth control and marriage equality, too
11. Hawkins of SFLA, Interview on MSNBC (quoted in Raw Story), January 28, 2017
Kristan Hawkins: “I don’t believe abortion causing contraception should be legal.”Joy Reid: “What kind of contraception are you talking about?”Hawkins:”Hormonal contraception.”Reid: “You think IUDs should be illegal?” Reid pressed.Hawkins: “I don’t think they should be legal. They put women at risk and they kill children.”Reid: “What about the birth control pill?”Hawkins: “I do not think it should be legal, I think that shouldn’t be legal.”Reid: “Kristan, Kristan, Kristan. I just want clarity. You think that the pill and the IUD should be illegal, right?”Hawkins: “In my ideal world, yes…That’s why we want Planned Parenthood’s money to go to health centers which don’t do contraception.”
In his concurring opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson, Clarence Thomas, husband of the insurrectionist Ginni Thomas, argued “In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.” Thomas was referring to Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), Lawrence v. Texas (2003), and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), cases that protect rights to birth control, consensual gay sex, and gay marriage, respectively.
As the great Maya Angelou once said, “When someone tells you who they are, believe them.” These anti-choice extremists just can’t stop telling us, even though the judges they packed the Court with lied to the Senate and the American people when they testified under oath about their devotion to following legal precedents like Roe v. Wade.
Lisa Graves, Alyssa Bowen, and Evan Vorpahl contributed to this article.