American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG)

The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) is an anti-abortion activist group known for disseminating scientifically suspect research on abortion.

About American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG)

The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) is an anti-abortion activist group known for disseminating scientifically suspect research on abortion. Founded by anti-abortion OB/GYNs in the wake of Roe v. Wade, AAPLOG’s activism includes training members to deliver scientifically dubious testimonies that have been used to roll back reproductive freedoms, publishing misinformative, politically motivated research that can be cited as evidence in anti-abortion legislation, and filing lawsuits with similar political aims. While anti-abortion activists have long tried to undermine abortion access with misinformation tactics, observers claim that AAPLOG sits in a unique position of being able to wrongfully legitimate this misinformation because its members hold medical licenses. 

AAPLOG promotes a number of claims about reproductive health that have been rejected or discredited by major medical groups. In addition to questioning the safety of commonplace abortion practices, AAPLOG falsely asserts that compulsory pre-abortion ultrasounds serve a medical purpose, that fetuses can feel pain before the third trimester, and that medication abortions can be safely halted mid-procedure. In an apparent response to the tactics of AAPLOG and its allies, the American Board of Obstetricians and Gynecologists––the professional association responsible for board certifying OB/GYNs in the United States––expanded its stance on medical misinformation, threatening to revoke the certifications of medical professionals who intentionally spread misinformation about contraception and abortion care. 

A 2018 report by NARAL (now known as Reproductive Freedom for All) identified AAPLOG as a legitimator of medical misinformation within a broader ecosystem of anti-abortion actors. First, AAPLOG helps produce and disseminate misinformative and pseudoscientific claims through a web of politically motivated research institutions, including think tanks and academic journals. Second, AAPLOG trains members to testify before lawmakers, where they have been found to make misinformative and scientifically unsupported arguments in favor of restricting abortion access. Third, it joins anti-abortion allies in lawsuits that attack reproductive freedoms under the guise of concern for medical safety. Finally, AAPLOG helped to vet anti-abortion candidates for staffing roles within the Trump Administration. 

While AAPLOG claims to be member-funded, financial documents reveal that the majority of its revenue in recent years came in the form of grants from the Catholic Association Foundation, an anti-LGBTQ+ advocacy group with close ties to right-wing judicial strategist and Trump court-whisperer Leonard Leo

Donna J. Harrison, Head of Research and former CEO

Donna Harrison was AAPLOG’s chief executive officer from 2013 to 2023. An OB/GYN who quit her practice in 2000 to become an anti-abortion activist full-time, Harrison has championed medical misinformation in a variety of forms, which include testifying before lawmakers, filing anti-abortion lawsuits as a plaintiff, and publishing junk science articles through questionable research organizations whose primary goal is anti-abortion activism. Harrison refers to unfertilized eggs as “embryonic babies,” opposes legal access to abortion and contraception, and has advocated for a variety of invasive and medically unnecessary policies whose main function is to deter people from legally seeking abortions, such as compulsory pregnancy registries

After stepping down as CEO, Harrison continued on at AAPLOG as director of research. She is also an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the anti-abortion organization Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, which shares AAPLOG’s mission of ending legal access to abortion in America. Tax documents also list Harrison as the “board chair” of the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, suggesting that she and other anti-abortion activists created the coalition to reduce transparency around their activism. 

Christina Francis, CEO

Christina Francis is an Indiana-based practicing OB/GYN who became AAPLOG’s CEO following Donna Harrison’s departure in 2023, having previously served as the chair of its board of directors. Francis has been the public face of medical disinformation campaigns, served as a witness in anti-abortion lawsuits, and delivered scientifically questionable testimonies before Congress. 

Francis has stated that she does not consider abortion healthcare and has accused the American College of Gynecologists (ACOG), which represents more than 60,000 American OB/GYNs (compared to AAPLOG’s 6,000), of “adopting the most extreme positions on abortion.” In response, ACOG’s president wrote that ACOG “supports robust, evidence-based, factual discourse” and that it “opposes personal beliefs interfering with patient care.” 

George Delgado

George Delgado is a San Diego-based OB/GYN and AAPLOG board member who claims to have developed an “abortion reversal” that can halt a medication abortion midway through the procedure. Established medical organizations have denounced Delgado’s work as an “unmonitored research experiment” and called his advocacy of the procedure “unproven and unethical.” In 2019, after years of falsely using its name to lend credibility to his work, Delgado was ordered by the University of California, San Diego’s medical school to stop claiming he was affiliated with the university. 

Despite denunciations from the medical community, anti-abortion lawmakers in multiple states have passed legislation that forces doctors to advertise the procedure to patients seeking a medication abortion. Due to rising concern over these laws, in 2019, researchers at the University of California, Davis commenced the first-ever randomized, clinically controlled study of the procedure. While originally set to enroll 40 subjects, the study was halted prematurely after three of its 12 early enrollees landed in the emergency room for excessive bleeding and hemorrhaging. The study’s lead researcher said that the attempt showed that there are serious risks associated with not following through with the medication abortion regimen once it’s begun. 

Additional Members

Other notable AAPLOG activists include OB/GYNs Christina Cirucci, Ingrid Skop, Nancy Wozniak, and Kathi Aultman, who have each played prominent roles in AAPLOG’s legal and legislative advocacy. As with Harrison and Francis, these individuals have sought to restrict abortion access by testifying in legislative hearings, participating in anti-abortion lawsuits as plaintiffs and witnesses, and advocating for anti-abortion views through junk science articles and op-eds.

The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists is part of an intricate anti-abortion ecosystem that seeks to oppose legal abortion access through multiple angles of attack. The anti-abortion movement flexes its formal power through legislators and judges who share its views and seek to introduce legislation and rulings that harm reproductive freedoms. Organizations like AAPLOG and other activist medical professional associations, such as the American College of Pediatricians, a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group, are part of the soft power structures that prop up these efforts with propaganda and misinformation. 

AAPLOG, in particular, offers anti-abortion lawmakers a novel approach through of its weaponization of medical misinformation. By organizing OB/GYNs who are willing to claim that abortion is unsafe, as well as promote abortion-deterring medical policies like mandatory waiting periods and ultrasounds, it offers ecosystem lawmakers the option to advocate for anti-abortion measures using disingenuous arguments for medical safety, and not just their personal moral views. 

A 2018 report by NARAL (now known as Reproductive Freedom for All) documents how various actors in the American anti-abortion movement fit together into a functioning ecosystem, built to mount a multi-faceted assault on reproductive freedoms: 

[Source: NARAL, The Insidious Power of the Anti-Choice Movement, 2018]

AAPLOG promotes a range of claims about abortion and birth control that are at odds with the views of established medical and scientific groups. 

False Claims About Abortion Safety

AAPLOG has constructed extensive misinformation campaigns that attempt to portray abortion as unsafe by medical standards. Extensive studies backed by major medical groups have shown abortion to be highly safe. Despite this, AAPLOG promotes a variety of false claims designed to spark fear and uncertainty around abortion care. 

Adequacy of Research

AAPLOG claims that existing research is inadequate to determine that abortions can be performed safely. Major medical groups, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the UK’s National Health Service, note that the high rate of success and low rate of complications following abortions are extremely well documented. 

Medication Abortion

Medication abortions are typically performed in the first trimester of pregnancy and involve taking a dose of mifepristone followed by a dose of misoprostol. AAPLOG claims that medication abortion “must be removed from the market” to “safeguard the health of American women.” In fact, extensive study shows medication abortions to be extremely safe, and that it successfully terminates pregnancy without major complications in 99.6 percent of cases

Relative Safety Abortion Compared to Childbirth

AAPLOG falsely claims that abortion is equally or more dangerous than childbirth. In fact, the death rate for childbirth (8.8/100,000) is fourteen times higher than the death rate for legal abortions (0.6/100,000). 

Mandatory Ultrasound Requirements

Anti-abortion activists support laws that require patients to undergo mandatory ultrasounds before abortion procedures, which primarily serve to deter patients from proceeding with the abortion last-minute. Major medical groups have established that ultrasounds are not medically necessary to prevent errors during the procedure, and instead, along with ultrasound viewing requirements, subject patients to additional steps that are intentionally invasive and emotionally distressing

False Claims About Fetal Pain

AAPLOG falsely claims that fetuses can feel pain as early as seven weeks. According to research published by the American Medical Association, fetuses don’t begin to feel pain until the third trimester. 

Treating Birth Control as Abortion

Publicly, AAPLOG promotes the widely rejected narrative that hormonal birth control and emergency contraception methods, which take effect before pregnancy can begin, cause abortion. Pregnancy begins when a fertilized egg implants in the lining of the uterus, which occurs five to seven days after fertilization. This means that emergency contraception does not work on individuals who are already pregnant. AAPLOG nonetheless opposes hormonal birth control, and its former Executive Director, Donna Harrison, has called preventing implantation the “moral equivalent of homicide.” Privately and in their personal practices, many AAPLOG doctors do not endorse this conflation and continue to prescribe IUDs and other forms of hormonal birth control with the approval of their organization’s leadership. 

In addition to claiming that blocking an egg’s implantation amounts to aborting a fetus, former AAPLOG president Mary Davenport has stated that AAPLOG’s opposition to birth control is rooted in a desire to discourage teenagers from having casual sex. Davenport, who professes to have a “Biblical Worldview” and has described a fear of “satanic ritual abuse” as playing a pivotal role in her decision to apply Christian principles to her practice, has opined that a “Fear of pregnancy is a deterrent to sexual activity… Teens will be counting on this morning-after pill to bail them out, and they’ll have more casual encounters.”

Calls for a Mandatory Pregnancy Registry

AAPLOG’s former executive director has called for a compulsory pregnancy registry––a blatant attempt to make it easier to prosecute people who seek or perform abortions, including those that take place in other states, and regardless of the circumstances, such as when the individual seeking the abortion is a victim of incest, rape, or sex trafficking. 

Abortion Reversal

AAPLOG supports laws that require physicians to inform abortion patients about a so-called “abortion reversal” procedure they can opt for if they change their mind between the doses that initiate a medication abortion. This procedure was developed outside the usual channels for medical research by an anti-abortion doctor with no affiliations to credible research institutions and has never been verified in clinical trials. The sole randomized and controlled clinical study into the procedure, which took place years after AAPLOG began advocating the procedure, had to be prematurely halted after patients were rushed to the emergency room for severe bleeding and hemorrhaging. The study’s lead researcher, a professor in the Obstetrics and Gynecology department at UC Davis, warned that there are serious risks associated with not following through with the otherwise safe medication abortion regimen once it’s begun. 

Support of Anti-Vaxxers and Double Standard for Medical Research

During the COVID-19 pandemic, AAPLOG argued that people should abstain from receiving newly-developed COVID vaccines because they were researched using cell tissues that were initially collected from a donated fetus over thirty years ago. According to medical researchers, however, “their use in developing COVID-19 vaccines isn’t anything different or special.” These cell lines are used to develop and test a wide variety of medicines ranging from ibuprofen and aspirin to hepatitis A vaccines, which AAPLOG has notably avoided mentioning. This double standard has prompted infectious disease experts to brand the fetal cell line narrative AAPLOG promotes as “dishonest sensationalism.” 

AAPLOG uses legislative and judicial testimonies as opportunities to disseminate medical misinformation and stoke fear and confusion around abortion. These testimonies and other political activities are often coordinated with public officials within the anti-abortion movement. The day after Donald Trump’s electoral victory in 2016, AAPLOG circulated an email among its members in which it announced that it had “already received requests from over 10 different states to identify physicians capable of testifying in favor of or in defense of bills and laws protecting unborn human life.” An email sent the following February announced an “expert witness workshop” to be held in the fall, where AAPLOG and its frequent legal partner, the Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group Alliance Defending Freedom, would coach potential testifiers on how to effectively deliver anti-abortion talking points. 

Lawmakers have repeatedly rejected AAPLOG activists’ testimonies for containing false and unsupported information, lack of professional experience, and inability to substantiate disagreements with the established conventions of the medical community, among numerous other issues. For instance:

  • In 2022, a North Dakota district court judge found that Donna Harrison’s opinions “have shifted dramatically over time,” “appear to be shaped primarily by the position she is advocating at the moment,” and are “generally at odds with solid medical evidence,” also noting that “her demeanor on the stand was guarded and defensive.” 
  • Also in 2022, a Florida district court judge wrote that Ingrid Skop “admitted that her testimony… was inaccurate and overstated, or based on decades ago” and “provided no credible scientific basis for her disagreement with recognized high-level medical organizations.” Skop also admitted that she testified on abortion safety protocols and abortion’s alleged negative mental health effects despite having “no experience performing abortions” and “no formal training in mental health counseling.” 
  • In a 2021 Pennsylvania legislative hearing, Kathi Aultman admitted that she has sometimes received payment for her testimonies, and that, like Skop, she has sometimes testified despite failing to meet the qualifications to appear as an expert. In response, Aultman stated, “I may have said I was not an expert, but I can read as well as anyone else.” 

In many instances, judges have also noted that the testifying AAPLOG member has never performed an abortion, or that they have not practiced medicine in decades

The testimonies, lawsuits, and other advocacy-oriented materials provided by AAPLOG members frequently cite works of questionable legitimacy created by other anti-abortion activists, rather than well-regarded scientific research. In addition to attributing scientific and historical information to activists’ testimonies and a third-year law paper, AAPLOG’s lawsuit in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA heavily cited two studies that have since been retracted by their scientific publishers for data representation issues and author conflicts of interest. The lawsuit also angered the authors of a Swedish abortion study that it cited, who accused the plaintiffs of purposefully misunderstanding their work in a “political game.”

Despite being featured as the plaintiff’s lead witness in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA, AAPLOG activist Ingrid Skop, who was cited frequently throughout the complaint, has never held an academic position and did not author a single research publication between the late 1990s and 2018. In a 2020 deposition, Skop conceded that she is “not a really good researcher,” that portions of her recent publications were “lift[ed]” from another author’s work, and that all her publications might suffer from similar plagiarism, professing not to know whether “identical republication of material from another author without attribution is consistent with standards of academic integrity.”

AAPLOG was formed by a group of anti-abortion OB/GYNs the same year Roe v. Wade was decided who were concerned that their political views relegated them to the fringes of their professional community. AAPLOG existed as a “special interest group” within the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the preeminent professional association for OB/GYNs in the United States, until 2013, when ACOG’s members voted to discontinue the designation and expel the group from its ranks. Since then, AAPLOG has railed against ACOG, supported lawsuits against the group, and attempted to portray it as “radical and “extreme” for its members’ general stance in favor of abortion legalization. 

According to a recent Medscape survey, 79 percent of practicing OB/GYNs in the United States support elective abortion access in at least the first trimester, with only 21 percent responding that they believed abortion should be illegal at conception with or without exceptions. This mirrors polling of Americans broadly, of which 85 percent support legal abortion in some form, and 34 percent believe abortion should be made available “in all circumstances.” 

ACOG’s rift with AAPLOG intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic, when anti-abortion activists and legislators took advantage of the crisis to push through a wave of increasingly restrictive abortion laws, and again when the Supreme Court’s conservative super-majority issued the controversial Dobbs ruling overturning Roe v. Wade

AAPLOG has clashed with medical boards over its deliberate use of misinformation to spread fear and doubt around abortion, which major medical organizations like the American Medical Association and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists firmly establish is safe for widespread use. In 2022, the American Board of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ABOG), from which practicing OB/GYNs in the United States must earn board certification, threatened to revoke the licenses of OB/GYNs for “intentionally providing misinformation and disinformation that may harm patients or public health.” In a statement, ABOG warned:

“Misinformation and disinformation about contraception and abortion can create false narratives about essential safe practices in the specialty. In addition, false or misleading information from board-certified medical professionals can also be used to advocate for legislation, regulations, criminal code, and health policy. ABOG considers the dissemination of misinformation and disinformation that may threaten the health of the patients who place their trust in its diplomates to be a violation of medical professionalism… Eligibility to gain or maintain ABOG certification may be lost if ABOG determines that diplomates do not meet the standards that they have agreed to meet and that the public deserves and expects.” 

In response, AAPLOG stated that it was exploring legal options and advertised a lawsuit seeking injunctive relief from ABOG’s policy that was filed by a political ally and anti-vaccine interest group, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.

Major medical associations and medical ethicists share ABOG’s view that intentionally promoting medical misinformation violates the trust that is essential to maintaining patient-provider relationships. AAPLOG plays a particularly unique and pernicious role in the anti-abortion movement, and by using their medical licenses to add an appearance of credibility to false and misinformative claims about abortion, observers have suggested, AAPLOG and its members abuse the trust that their status as medical practitioners affords them.

In 2020, an article published in Mother Jones compared AAPLOG’s tactics to those of other promoters of “alternative facts,” such as climate-denialist scientists or vaccine skeptics during the COVID-19 pandemic. The article noted that “while AAPLOG’s positions have been dismissed by many in medical and scientific circles, its arguments… illustrate the organization’s unique role in anti-abortion advocacy, distinct from anti-choice groups who stake their opposition on moral grounds.” Beyond presenting a moral opposition to abortion as anti-abortion activists have in the past, AAPLOG has been accused of waging a war on science and is said to pose “a different threat because they have that medical stamp behind them.” 

AAPLOG’s tactics have had discernible impacts, considerably harming the quality of abortion care for many Americans. The anti-abortion pseudoscience journal it helps publish, Issues in Law & Medicine, has garnered thousands of citations from anti-abortion lawmakers, including a mention in a dissenting opinion Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in 2000. An article produced by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, a close partner of AAPLOG’s that houses many of its leaders, was also cited in the majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson, in which the Supreme Court’s six conservative justices overturned Roe v. Wade and stripped abortion of its long-maintained status as a constitutionally protected right. 

AAPLOG’s website claims it is a member-funded organization. However, out of the $1,177,206 in revenue it reported in 2022, the most recent year for which tax filings are available, the filings indicate that membership dues supplied just $110,999. The remainder came in the form of donations from special interest groups, most notably the Catholic Association Foundation, a religious nonprofit that has funded campaigns to stop states from recognizing same-sex marriage and has had right-wing judicial strategist and Trump court-whisperer Leonard Leo on its board since 2012. 

While nonprofits like AAPLOG are not required to disclose their funding sources, foundations that issue grants are required to identify their grantees, which provides a glimpse into how charitable donations move through foundations. Tax filings from recent years reveal that the following organizations have funded AAPLOG: 

Donor Amount Year
The Catholic Association Foundation $500,000 2022
American Endowment Foundation $53,000 2022
Alliance Defending Freedom $25,000 2022
Moran Foundation $10,000 2022
The Catholic Association Foundation $500,000 2021
American Endowment Foundation $50,000 2021
Moran Foundation $10,000 2021
Strake Foundation $5,000 2021
Legett Foundation $5,000 2020
Susan B. Anthony List Inc. Education Foundation $267,375 2019
National Christian Charitable Foundation $5,750 2019
Strake Foundation $2,500 2019

The American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists lists seven partner organizations on its website, including two Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate groups, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and the American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds). Others, joining AAPLOG and ACPeds, are the organizations comprising the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, an activist coalition formed specifically to file anti-abortion lawsuits like Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA

Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine

The Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine is a membership-based umbrella organization of anti-abortion medical groups created to influence court cases on abortion. Incorporated in Donna Harrison’s name in 2022, the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine is thought to be a shadow organization in all but name, created to dissolve political pressure on anti-abortion groups and allow them to attack reproductive freedoms with greater anonymity. The groups comprising it are the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Catholic Medical Association (CMDA), the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, the Coptic Medical Association of North America, and the American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds), the last of which was designated a hate group by the Southern Law Poverty Center. 

Three months after it filed for incorporation in Texas, the organization, along with AAPLOG, ACPeds, CMDA, and four anti-abortion doctors, filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas’ Amarillo division asking to overturn the FDA’s approval of the abortion medication drug mifepristone. Having been filed in a district likely to place the case before a noted anti-abortion judge (in this instance, former anti-abortion activist Matthew J. Kacsmaryk), the lawsuit follows a well-documented pattern of judge shopping. The case, which has risen through federal courts under the name Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA, is set to appear before the Supreme Court in 2024 and offers the Court’s six-judge conservative supermajority a chance to further harm Americans’ access to safe and legal abortion. 

American College of Pediatricians 

The American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds), founded in 2002 by 60 conservative doctors who split from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), is a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group that is part of the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine alongside AAPLOG. ACPeds has approximately 700 members, claims that the LGBTQ+ designation should have an additional “P” for “pedophile,” and has been known to promote sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts (or SOGICE––also referred to as “gay conversion therapy”) and other practices that inflict harm on LGBTQ+ persons. Former leaders of ACPeds have been described as playing a leading role in promoting misinformative arguments that have been widely used to defend SOGICE and other anti-queer and anti-trans practices. ACPeds also frequently files anti-LGBTQ+ lawsuits with the help of the Alliance Defending Freedom, another anti-LGBTQ+ designated hate group. 

In May 2023, document leaks revealed the contents of ACPeds’ unsecured Google Drive files, including a document named “HOW TO DEFUND TRANS PEDIATRICS” and an optics presentation in which leaders expressed concern with being viewed along similar lines to the Ku Klux Klan. WIRED, which originally reported on the leaks, wrote that they revealed “an organization that has benefited greatly by exaggerating its own power,” demonstrating how ACPeds “managed to introduce fringe beliefs into the mainstream simply by being, as the founder of Fox News once put it, ‘the loudest voice in the room.’”

Alliance Defending Freedom

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) is a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group that uses litigation and advocacy to roll back rights for Americans everywhere, specifically focusing on attacking abortion rights and the LGBTQ+ community. As one of the most well-resourced legal advocacy groups on the right––housing more than 400 attorneys and support staff and having raised more than $100 million since 2021––ADF offers pro bono representation to interest groups seeking to advance right-wing causes in court. 

With the pro-bono support of ADF attorneys, AAPLOG has filed a number of lawsuits and amicus briefs seeking to roll back reproductive freedoms. Recent cases have included: 

  • Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA, in which plaintiffs are seeking to retroactively strike down the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone, an abortion medication used to perform more than half of all abortions in the United States;
  • State of Texas v. Becerra, in which AAPLOG and ADF sought to allow anti-abortion doctors to dodge federal anti-discrimination standards, including a requirement that they provide medically necessary abortion care, that typically apply to the recipients of federal grant funding;
  • Allegheny Reproductive Health Center v. PA Department of Human Services, in which defendants sought to uphold a Pennsylvania state law banning Medicaid coverage for abortions;

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America and the Charlotte Lozier Institute

Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America (formerly known as Susan B. Anthony List) is an an “increasingly influential and hardline campaign group” that has aimed to make abortion a central political issue dividing the United States. In 2019, its charitable branch gave AAPLOG grants worth $267,375, supplying over 60 percent of its funding in that tax year. Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America is also home to the Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI), an anti-abortion think tank that wants to eliminate access to abortion entirely and is listed as one of six “partners” on AAPLOG’s website. 

Many prominent AAPLOG activists, such as Donna Harrison, Christina Francis, Ingrid Skop, Christina Cirucci, and Kathi Aultman, also hold titles at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. CLI offers them avenues for publishing politically motivated research with few or non-existent academic barriers and support from reviewers who share their anti-abortion ideology. In this vein, a Rewire investigation in 2014 found that CLI and other anti-choice research groups rely on a relatively small set of “experts” who systematically promote “unproven or discredited theories” or “have been publicly discredited in episodes ranging from lying to the public, presenting false data in scientific journals, and being forced to retract articles that proved to be works of fiction presented as fact.” 

Despite the concerns with scientific objectivity, CLI’s pseudoscientific research has made its way into mainstream news outlets on a number of occasions and has been cited by anti-abortion lawmakers in numerous hearings and court cases, including Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health and anti-abortion judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk’s ruling in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA

Watson Bowes Institute and Issues in Law & Medicine

In 2016, AAPLOG formed a research group called the Watson Bowes Institute in an apparent effort to ramp up its production of pseudoscientific articles on abortion and hormonal birth control. Although it does not have a functioning website, the Watson Bowes Institute co-publishes Issues in Law & Medicine, an anti-abortion law journal that has been called a “one-stop journal for anti-vaccine, anti-abortion pseudoscience.” Issues in Law & Medicine, which frequently publishes articles attributed to AAPLOG, does not advertise its connection to the group on its website.

Instead, Issues in Law & Medicine claims to be published through a think tank called the “National Legal Center for the Medically Dependent & Disabled, Inc.” This group has little online presence and is revealed in tax filings to be registered to Barry A. Bostrom––an anti-abortion activist who is the editor-in-chief of Issues in Law & Medicine. “National Legal Center” was also founded by Issues in Law & Medicine’s original founder, James Bopp Jr., a conservative lawyer who once said that a ten-year-old rape victim should not have been allowed to terminate her resulting pregnancy because she would one day “understand the reason and ultimately the benefit of having the child.” These details suggest that these groups exist as part of an elaborate attempt to produce politically motivated anti-abortion “research” with an appearance of scientific legitimacy.

The Catholic Association and Catholic Association Foundation

The Catholic Association and affiliated Catholic Association Foundation are Christian groups dedicated to extending “Catholic teaching, wisdom, and principles” to various areas of American law and public life. The Catholic Association Foundation financially supports various religious, conservative, and anti-abortion groups, and is known to have “funded campaigns to rally Catholic voters and stop states from recognizing same-sex marriage.” Since 2021, it has been AAPLOG’s principal source of funding. 

In 2012, right-wing judicial kingpin Leonard Leo joined the boards of the Catholic Association and Catholic Association Foundation. Leonard Leo has been described as “arguably the most powerful figure in the federal justice system” and played a pivotal role in helping religious conservatives secure an ideological majority on the Supreme Court, leading to the overturn of Roe v. Wade, the expansion of gun rights, and the restriction of environmental protections.

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