Conservative men are spending millions to fund 'women-led' anti-abortion groups


Top anti-abortion groups are fueled by the money of anti-choice men.

Anti-abortion groups love to have a woman as their public face. However, behind the scenes, rich white men play an outsized role in funding and controlling the operations.

Take the Susan B. Anthony List. In public, the group highlights CEO Marjorie Dannenfelser, trotting her out for galas and meetings with Trump. Behind the scenes, though, it's conservative white money men pulling the strings.

Conservative hedge fund manager Sean Fieler runs an awful lot of the show at SBA List, albeit quietly and through a snarl of other companies. Over at one of his main companies, American Principles Project, he describes himself as someone focusing on "monetary reform" and mentions that he sits on several boards, including SBA List's.

Fieler is being quite modest here. Rewire News called him "the Little-Known ATM of the Fundamentalist Christian, Anti-Choice Movement." From 2010 to 2014, he donated more than $18 million to anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ causes. Over half a million of that went to SBA List. Fieler donated even more to fund an app called Femm, a period tracker that tells users to use "natural" birth control methods. SBA List paid Fieler to build an app for them as well, then forgot to disclose it on their tax returns.

Fieler isn't the only rich man helping run the show at SBA List. His colleague at American Principles, Frank Cannon, is also a big player. In 2012, Cannon sat on the SBA List's board and the organization claimed he worked 50 hours every week for a salary of $12,000 per year. During the 2016 election, Trump named Cannon one of the co-chairs of his pro-life coalition. By 2017, Cannon was a "former treasurer" but was raking in over $200,000 per year from SBA List.

Things are much the same at anti-abortion group Students for Life of America. There, the figurehead is Kristan Hawkins. However, the seven-member board has only one woman. Some of the men on the board seem relatively small-time, like Paul Horrocks, who the SFLA website describes as head of an organization that "equip[s] Christian men to protect women by working to end sexual narcissism." On the other hand, the board also boasts heavyweights like Ray Ruddy.

Ruddy is a conservative multimillionaire with deep ties to the George W. Bush White House. He runs the Gerard Health Foundation, which has very little to do with health and everything to do with funding anti-abortion groups. In fact, Ruddy and Gerard are also big backers of Lila Rose's Life Action, another anti-abortion organization.

Leonard Leo is also on the board of SFLA. As head of the right-wing Federalist Society, Leo has worked in the shadows for years to try to get conservative judges on the courts. Of course, in the Trump era, he's been very successful. The judicial nominees Leo sent to Trump are rabidly anti-choice and are getting confirmed by the GOP-controlled Senate a record clip.

Leo is also a king of dark money, overseeing nonprofits that collected over $250 million in anonymous donations from 2014 to 2017. One of those nonprofits is Wellspring, which Leo once named as his employer on a public filing.

Leo plays a leading role in raising money for Wellspring. The Center for Responsive Politics also found Wellspring sent $750,000 to an obscure company that gave $1m to Trump's inauguration fund. Leo named that company as his employer on a public filing. Wellspring is a major backer of SBA List, putting Leo in close contact with both SBA List and SFLA.

Women may be at the front of these organizations, but they're fueled by the ideology and money of anti-choice men.