While the material is not expressly religious, it is clearly aimed at painting same-sex marriage as aberrant and immoral behavior. Physicians lobbied by the group are also told to urge patients to purchase Christian-based parenting guides, including one designed to help parents broach the topic of sex with their 11- and 12-year-old kids. The College suggests telling parents to plan a “special overnight trip,” a pretext for instilling in their children sexual norms in line with evangelical practice. The group suggests telling parents to buy a tool called a “getaway kit,” a series of workbooks that run around $54 online. The workbooks methodically walk the parents through the process of springing the topic, but only after a day-long charade of impromptu gift-giving and play.
These books are full of games and puzzles for the parent and child to cooperatively take on. Throughout the process, the child slowly digests a concept of “sexual purity,” lessons aided by oversimplified scripture and well-trodden Bible school parables.
Another document the group shared with its members contains a script for appointments with pregnant minors. Its purpose is made evidently clear: The advice is engineered specifically to reduce the odds of minors coming into contact with medical professionals not strictly opposed to abortion. A practice script recommends the doctor inform the minor that they “strongly recommend against” abortion, adding “the procedure not only kills the infant you carry, but is also a danger to you.” (Medically, the term “fetus” and “infant” are not interchangeable, the latter referring to a newborn baby less than one year old.)
The doctors are urged to recommend that the minor visit a website that, like others shared with patients, is not expressly religious but will only direct visitors to Catholic-run “crisis pregnancy centers,” which strictly reject abortion. The same site is widely promoted by anti-abortion groups such as National Right to Life, which last year held that it should be illegal to terminate the pregnancy of a 10-year-old rape victim.
The effort to ban mifepristone, which the Supreme Court paused last month pending further review, faces significant legal hurdles but could ultimately benefit from the appellate court’s disproportionately conservative makeup. Most of the legal power in the fight was supplied by a much older and better funded group, the Alliance Defending Freedom, which has established ties to some of the country’s most politically elite—former vice president Mike Pence and Supreme Court justice Amy Coney Barrett among them.
A contract in the leaked documents dated April 2021 shows the ADF agreeing to legally represent the College free of charge. It stipulates that ADF’s ability to subsidize expenses incurred during lawsuits would be limited by ethical guidelines; however, it could still forgive any lingering costs simply by declaring the College “indigent.”
In contrast to the College’s some 700 members, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)–the organization from which the College’s founders split 20 years ago–has roughly 67,000. The rupture between the two groups was a direct result of a statement issued by the AAP in 2002. Modern research, the AAP said, had conclusively shown that the sexual orientation of parents had an imperceptible impact on the well-being of children, so long as they were raised in caring, supportive families.
The College would gain notoriety early on by assailing the positions of the AAP. In 2005, a Boston Globe reporter noted how common it had become for the American College of Pediatricians “to be quoted as a counterpoint” to anything the AAP said. The institution had a rather “august-sounding name,” he wrote, for being run by a “single employee.”
Internal documents show that the group’s directors quickly encountered hurdles operating on the fringe of accepted science. Some claimed to be oppressed. Most of the College’s research had been “written by one person,” according to minutes from a 2006 meeting, which were included in the leak. The College was failing to make a splash. In the future, one director suggested, papers rejected by medical journals “should be published on the web.” The vote to do so was unanimous (though the board decided the term “not published” was nicer than “rejected”).
A second director put forth a motion to create a separate “scientific section” on the group’s website, strictly for linking to articles published in medical journals. The motion was quashed after it dawned on the board that they didn’t “have enough articles” to make the page “look professional.”
The College struggled to identify the root cause of its runtedness. “To get enough clout,” one director said, “it would take substantial numbers, maybe 10,000.” (The College’s recruitment efforts would yield fewer than 7 percent of this goal in the following 17 years.) Yet another said the marketing department advised that “the College needs to pick a fight with the AAP and get on Larry King Live.” Another board member, the notes say, felt the organization was too busy trying to “walk the fence” by neglecting to acknowledge that “we are conservative and religious.”