The U.S. Supreme Court overturned a half-century of federal rights to abortion on Friday morning.
While most Americans support abortion rights in principle, a small group of conservative activists have been tirelessly working for decades to end Roe v. Wade. One man has played a significant role in this effort: Leonard Leo.
Leo is the leader of the conservative legal group, the Federalist Society. He has spent most of his adult life getting conservatives to the highest courts in the country, including the Supreme Court.
Ed Whelan, conservative writer and lawyer, wrote in the National Review that "Noone has been more committed to the enterprise building a Supreme Court which will overturn Roe V. Wade than the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo."
You must first learn about "the list" to understand how we got here and how Leo gained so much influence over the person who sits at the highest court of the country.
On Friday, former President Donald Trump took credit for Roe v. Wade's demise.
He stated that he had "delivered everything as promised" in a statement released shortly after the Supreme Court decision. This included nominating and having three strong and respected constitutionalists confirmed to serve on the United States Supreme Court.
These three justices were Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, along with Amy Coney Barrett, who all voted to repeal Roe. All of them were on a highly publicized list of possible SCOTUS nominees, which Trump shared publicly.
Leo personally selected this list.
The list of 11 names that began in 2016 continued to grow throughout Trump's campaign and presidency. This list helped Trump win over skeptical conservative voters, especially those who were uncertain if he would stand for their beliefs in office. Ruth Marcus, Washington Post columnist, wrote about Leo and the Federalist Society in her book Supreme Ambition: Brett Kavanaugh, and the Conservative Takeover.
She said, "It was a way to say to conservative and evangelical voters: 'See, you're one of us.
It was also part Leo and Federalist Society's ongoing plan for changing the composition of the court.
The Federalist Society is a network that helps identify, promote, credential, and support conservative lawyers. Marcus stated that they would turn them into conservative nominees for judicial office and then conservative judges.
The Federalist Society's core beliefs are textualism, originalism.
Leo stated in a 2018 interview that he believed a judge should interpret laws the way they are written. He should also apply the Constitution's original meaning.
Marcus says that Leo's Catholic faith is the root of his judicial conservatism.
Marcus stated, "It seems completely clear that his personal religious convictions about abortion, believing it's taking a human life," are in complete agreement with, aligned with and mutually supported his vision of constitutional interpretation."
Leo has been a key gatekeeper to the federal bench for conservative lawyers, and the outcome of Roe V. Wade's overturning is the culmination of a long-running game.
Marcus stated that conservatives looking for powerful judicial appointments know Leo is "the man to watch".
She said that Brett Kavanaugh's clerks tried to get him on Donald Trump’s list for the Supreme Court. They made a pilgrimage the Federalist Society to meet Leonard Leo...to kiss the ring.
This level of influence and power in Washington is rare without a lot of money. Leo played a key role in raising funds for the nominees to the judicial bench.
Confirmation proceedings have become more like political campaigns in recent years. Many of these campaigns are funded by a complicated network of anonymous donors. Leo is skilled in attracting these types of donors to his cause. Marcus stated that Leo was "uniquely skilled at obtaining large checks from billionaire donors, some as high as eight figures."
Leo stated in an interview with The Washington Post that "the abolitionist movement and the women's right movement, as well as the American Revolution and the early labor movement, were all fueled by wealthy people. Often, wealthy people chose to remain anonymous." That's not a bad thing. That's my opinion.
Washington Post analysis revealed that Leo and his aides raised $250 million from undisclosed donors between 2014 and 2017. A large portion of this money went directly to advertising campaigns designed to get support for judicial confirmations aEUR," campaigns that include such commercials as this.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island, a Democratic, is strongly against anonymous donors influencing the federal judiciary.
Whitehouse stated that "it has created a captivity court that makes decisions on who they want win." He compared the conservative strategy to form the federal courts with "the mischief associated 19th-century railroad commissions and other administrative entities that are taken over by special interest and suffer regulatory capture."
Others may disagree.
Ron Bonjean, a communications strategist in Neil Gorsuch's Supreme Court confirmation, called Whitehouse's view "a political criticism of the fact Republicans can confirm Supreme Court justices."
Bonjean stated that Democrats have their own political levers, political organizations and they are able to fund billions of dollar to help define nominees as well as we do.
The country's emotions have been tense since the Supreme Court decision was made last Friday. In the weeks preceding the decision, we asked Leo to interview us. He never agreed.
Marcus stated that this moment was the culmination decades of work.
She said, "This is the moment Leonard Leo has been working towards diligently and fervently since he's an absolute believer." "I know that he believes that the Constitution does not grant him the right to have an abortion. He believes that abortion is the taking of human life. If this is what your life has been about for the past 30-40 years, then imagine how this moment feels to you. It's like victory.
Leo never claimed that his efforts to shape the federal judiciary were about overturning Roe v. Wade aEUR", but he maintained that it was about his commitment towards the U.S. Constitution. But it is clear that his dogged efforts to transform a recently liberal-leaning Supreme Court into a conservative-majority apparatus has resulted in just that.