The image that spawned this meme is a photograph of a couple, standing in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday amid protesters, holding a sign that says, “We Will Adopt Your Baby,” cheesing for the camera with huge grins. Their message was simple: They see adoption as an alternative to abortion.
It’s not. The proposal of adoption as an alternative to abortion still undermines a woman’s right to choose, and ignores the matter of pregnancy complications or the emotional trauma of carrying a baby to term and then giving it away. The meme itself takes aim at this false equivalency. But the actual individuals in the photo aren’t anonymous pro-lifers. They are members of a network of influential anti-abortion lobbying groups. Until a little over a year ago, one of them was associated with the most powerful anti-LGBTQ law firm in America.
The couple, Neydy Casillas and Sebastián Schuff, are both lawyers who have dedicated much of their careers to conservative Christian legal fights. (Neither responded to a request for interview or comment.) Schuff, the president of a group called the Global Center for Human Rights, is originally from Argentina, where he worked for years in academia and government, and as a public defender, according to his Linkedin profile. His work bio indicates that much of his career has been spent in service of human rights related to “life, religious freedom, and family rights.”
Casillas, who is also associated with Schuff’s organization, is the one tied to the powerful anti-LGBTQ law firm, Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been pushing to transform the U.S. into a more “Christian-values” nation (with remarkable success). Casillas, who is originally from Mexico, currently works for an organization called Concerned Women for America, an evangelical advocacy group that was founded in the late 1970s in opposition to the feminist movement and Betty Friedan’s National Organization for Women. The group advocated against the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1980s and has since fought against abortion, gay marriage, secular education, and other issues important to the Christian right. It takes its fights to legislatures and the courts. For example, it entered an amicus brief for Dobbs.
Casillas and Schuff currently live in Washington, D.C., but Casillas works on international affairs for CWA. Before she joined the organization a little over two years ago, she spent over a decade with the international offshoot of the Alliance Defending Freedom.
The Alliance Defending Freedom is best known for defending the Christian cake shop owners who fought for the right to discriminate against gay customers in the 2018 Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court case, but the legal group has been involved in a number of other high-profile “religious freedom” cases, including as one of the key parties in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. The CEO of the organization, Michael Farris, got his start in the Christian home-schooling movement, which he single-handedly transformed into a cultural and legal powerhouse. ADF is deeply entwined with the “parental rights” movement, and is a huge force pushing anti-CRT legislation and anti-trans bills that are going through state houses. According to the New York Times, Farris also “played a critical behind-the-scenes role” in drafting the lawsuit Republican state attorneys filed to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
The international offshoot of ADF may deal with institutions and courts abroad instead of those in the United States, but it’s rooted in the same values and takes on similar cultural fights. One of the most prominent lawsuits it joined involved a Finnish politician—whom ADF supported—who was acquitted of criminal hate speech charges for speaking out against Pride events. The case drew attention in international conservative media for months. Other ongoing and recent cases involve the morning after pill, worship practices during COVID lockdowns, and, of course, abortion.
The couple may genuinely be aware of the difficulty of adoption, and may indeed be willing or ready to adopt. But it’s worth noting that these elated-looking people who spawned a meme have built their careers off a movement to strip abortion rights from women—and the web of conservative issues that movement is connected to. When it comes to organizing from the Christian right, things are often not as organic as they first seem.