Meet the Republican Attorneys General Wreaking Havoc on Abortion Access 

Across the U.S., members of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) are working to fulfill anti-abortion power broker Leonard Leo’s extreme agenda.

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch are all members of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), a group launching coordinated attacks on abortion access.

In a recent podcast interview Leonard Leo, anti-abortion power broker and engineer of the Supreme Court’s far-right faction, called on ultra-wealthy donors to join his roughly $2 billion war chest dedicated to turning back our rights. He described his strategy: “It’s really important that we flood the zone with cases that challenge misuse of the Constitution by the administrative state and by Congress.” 

At his disposal, Leo also has a veritable legal army of far-right attorneys general, members of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), to helm these litigation efforts. RAGA-member attorneys general have already been especially active in pushing for and enforcing oppressive abortion bans.

RAGA is a pay-to-play 527 group that can accept unlimited contributions from corporations, dark money groups and individuals, which it in turn uses to help elect far-right attorneys general. These AGs then use their power to push extreme policies that attack our rights, democracy, environment and more. Notoriously, RAGA’s 501(c)(4) Rule of Law Defense Fund arranged robocalls urging Trump supporters to march on the U.S. Capitol and calling on Congress to “stop the steal” ahead of the violent Jan. 6 insurrection. 

The extent to which RAGA’s AGs are willing to advance Leo’s agenda recently reached new heights. Politico reported that past and present RAGA members wrote a letter to D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb—who is leading the investigation into Leo’s dark money empire—calling on him to stand down.  

The letter threatened that Schwalb’s investigation could compel other AGs to come for pro-abortion access organizations, “Once the dam breaks, we and our successors will be under intense pressure to investigate the inner workings of every abortion advocacy group. … We can only stop it if each of us conscientiously stays in his or her lane.” 

While RAGA AGs may not be targeting specific abortion access groups yet, they are certainly working to fulfill Leo’s anti-abortion agenda.

According to annual tax filings, a core group in Leo’s efforts to capture levers of power—the Concord Fund/Judicial Crisis Network—is by far RAGA’s largest contributor, directing $20 million to the RAGA since 2014. 

RAGA also receives substantial funding from Big Oil, Big Tobacco, the pharmaceutical industry and a host of other corporate interests. According to a report from Accountable.US, PhRMA has given RAGA over $250,000 since 2022.  PhRMA represents the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world and has publicly defended access to mifepristone, the most-widely used form of abortion healthcare in the U.S., which is at risk in a case the U.S. Supreme Court is considering this year.

Other pharmaceutical giants are also regular funders of RAGA’s extreme agenda. Pfizer, whose CEO signed onto a letter last April calling for a reversal of right-wing judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s mifepristone ruling, has also contributed over half a million dollars to RAGA since 2020.

Despite the interests of their corporate donors, RAGA AGs have been embroiled in the fight against mifepristone from the onset. 

  • In January 2023, RAGA AGs sent a letter to FDA commissioner Robert Califf, attacking the FDA’s mifepristone regulations. 
  • In February 2023, RAGA AGs filed an amicus brief that urged the Northern District of Texas to block the FDA’s approval of mailing abortion drugs

Several attorneys general have been especially active in attempting to impose their personal beliefs about abortion on all Americans.

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch in front of the U.S. Supreme Court after oral arguments on Dec. 1, 2021, regarding the case that would eventually overturn Roe v. Wade. (Melina Mara / The Washington Post via Getty Images)

RAGA member and Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch has played a significant role in restricting abortion access not only in Mississippi but also for people across the United States. In coordination with Alliance Defending Freedom, Fitch wrote the legislation for Mississippi’s anti-abortion law (via its fellow, Erin Hawley). Fitch took Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to the Supreme Court, upending federal protections for abortion healthcare

Fitch assumed office in 2020 and was the first Republican attorney general to be elected to office in Mississippi since Reconstruction. RAGA Mississippi PAC gave $300,000 to her election campaign. Other notable contributors were Neil Corkery (he also contributed to her 2023 campaign), a key Leo operative who has held the financial books for many groups in Leo’s network. Koch Industries has also contributed six-figure sums to RAGA. While oil billionaire Charles Koch claims to support reproductive rights, his network continues to donate money to anti-abortion political figures and groups.

Despite Mississippi’s near-total abortion ban already in place, during her campaign last year, Fitch took her anti-abortion machinations to the next level. She led the national charge calling for access to private medical records of anyone who traveled out of state to receive abortion healthcare to be shared with local state law enforcement agencies where patients reside and abortion bans or restrictions are in place. 

Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), then-Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 12, 2015. (Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call)

Idaho Attorney General Raúl Labrador, who assumed office in 2023, is also a RAGA member who has used his role as AG to advance his personal anti-abortion views. 

When the far-right faction of the Supreme Court—installed by Trump, Leo and the right-wing billionaires backing them—decided to throw out decades of precedent and overturn Roe, Idaho’s extreme anti-abortion law went into effect. 

Under Idaho’s abortion ban, doctors face felony charges for providing abortion healthcare to people in serious medical distress, unless they are on the verge of death. However, pregnancy can lead to a wide spectrum of health risks, even fatal conditions that fall outside that interpretation of the law. Such laws can leave doctors unable to provide patients healthcare that meets basic medical standards for fear of legal ramifications or professional ruin.  

To protect medical providers, the Biden administration issued guidelines under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) that would require hospitals receiving Medicare reimbursements (which is almost all of them) to provide emergency abortion care.  

Labrador is one of two GOP-elected Idaho officials challenging this federal rule in Idaho v. United States, which is set to be heard by the captured Supreme Court later this month. 

He also outsourced the state’s defense to the extreme anti-abortion group Alliance Defending Freedom, a group the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated a “hate grouphellbent on ending abortion healthcare in the U.S. The spouse of U.S. Senator Josh Hawley, Erin Hawley, signed the agreement with Idaho on behalf of ADF. Labrador also hired the law firm Cooper & Kirk. The firm’s co-founder Charles Cooper has a long-standing relationship with Justice Samuel Alito, known for his opposition to abortion access. 

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 1, 2021, after the Court heard arguments in a challenge to the controversial Texas abortion law which bans abortions after six weeks. The Court eventually greenlighted the law to take effect. (Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

Ken Paxton’s reputation as an anti-abortion extremist is lengthy. When he was elected state AG, he announced that Leonard Leo was one of his advisors. Paxton’s anti-abortion extremism was well-known during his tenure in the Texas House and Senate, and he has only doubled-down on his anti-abortion efforts as Texas’ attorney general. 

Prior to the Dobbs decision, Paxton aggressively defended Senate Bill 8, a near-total abortion ban that empowered Texans to sue those who “aid or abet” abortion healthcare, not only making it impossible for abortion providers to do their jobs but also creating a climate of fear for pregnant Texans. Following the Dobbs decision, Paxton targeted abortion providers by issuing an advisory encouraging local prosecutors to pursue criminal charges against abortion providers. 

Paxton’s anti-abortion extremism garnered national attention again last year when, following a Texas court’s decision to allow Kate Cox, a 31-year old woman with a nonviable pregnancy, to receive emergency abortion care, he threatened first-degree felony prosecution for any “hospitals, doctors, or anyone else” who performed this life-saving medical procedure. 

Notably, abortion is not Paxton’s only area of extremism and aggression. He also initiated Texas v. Pennsylvania, a lawsuit filed by four states in service of the “Big Lie” that contested the election results after President Biden democratically beat Donald Trump and has been subject to criminal investigations for security fraud

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen arrives to testify during the House Homeland Security Committee hearing on “Havoc in the Heartland: How Secretary Mayorkas’ Failed Leadership Has Impacted the States” on Jan. 10, 2024. (Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, another RAGA member, attempted to block a ballot proposal seeking constitutional protections for abortion access in January of this year. He claimed the ballot initiative was “legally insufficient,” an interpretation the Montana Supreme Court recently rejected. Knudsen has assailed the judiciary in Montana, largely because the court has defended against some of the the far-right’s policy agenda and has protected abortion rights in the state under long-standing legal precedents. 

After being ordered by Montana’s Supreme Court to prepare an abortion access ballot statement, Knudsen rewrote the original ballot initiative

In late 2023, Montana’s attorney ethics office filed a formal complaint against Knudsen and his attorneys with 41 alleged counts for allegedly violating “professional conduct during litigation over legislative subpoena powers.” They have denied any wrongdoing. 

RAGA also put out an ad in favor of Knudsen during his 2020 election campaign, and one of the biggest contributors to his campaign was Rising Tide Media Group, run by former Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) staffer Sonny Scott. RAGA was formerly housed under RSLC until 2014.  

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody at a press conference with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at the Broward County Courthouse on Aug. 18, 2022, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where she announced the state’s new Office of Election Crimes and Security. The office went on to publicly arrest 20 individuals across the state for alleged voter fraud. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

Attorney General Ashley Moody has acted as a major roadblock to Floridians who are fighting to get abortion access on the 2024 election ballot. 

Floridians Protecting Freedom gathered 500,000 of the 891,523 signatures ahead of the Feb. 1 deadline needed to put the abortion access proposal on the ballot, when Moody asked the far-right Florida Supreme Court (hand-picked by Gov. Ron DeSantis with guidance from Leonard Leo) to keep the initiative off the ballot. 

Moody contended that the amendment’s language could lead to differing interpretations as to what fetal “viability” means. However, fetal viability is a medical term understood by the medical community as a stage of development when a fetus can live outside the uterus. 

RAGA contributed $100,000 to Moody’s re-election campaign in 2021. 

Moody (along with Labrador, Paxton and Knudsen) also recently signed onto a letter penned by RAGA AGs threatening to sue the state of Maine if Legislative Document 227 passes. LD 227 would shield healthcare providers from “subpoenas or warrants, health records requests, extradition requests and other civil or criminal proceedings if they provide care—including abortion and gender-affirming care.” 

True North’s executive director Lisa Graves and Evan Vorpahl, True North’s director of state courts and democracy, contributed to this article.

Up next:

U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.


Ansev Demirhan is a senior researcher at True North Research. She earned her Ph.D. in history from UNC-Chapel Hill and is trained as an intersectional feminist historian. Her research focuses on dark money groups and their opposition to policies that advance equity, reproductive justice, LGBTQIA+ rights and public education. Demirhan has bylines in Ms. magazine, The Guardian, Truthout and Rewire News Group.