The American College of Pediatricians scored a major victory last month when a federal judge ruled in its favor and halted the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone, a drug used in chemical abortions.
Just weeks later, the organization endured a cyberattack carried out by hackers intending to cause major damage. As if that wasn’t enough, news of the hack was then leaked to a hostile journalist in a fleeting attempt to damage the organization’s reputation.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, pro-life institutions and individuals have faced sustained attacks. The militant group Jane’s Revenge vandalized pregnancy resource centers, the FBI arrested pro-life father Mark Houck in Pennsylvania, and a deranged pro-abortion man plotted an assassination attempt on Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
These unrelenting attacks show no sign of abating. Look no further than the latest assault on the American College of Pediatricians, also known as ACPeds.
The group, founded in 2002 as an alternative to the politically correct American Academy of Pediatrics, punches well above its weight. That much was acknowledged by Wired, which referred to its “outsize influence” in revealing the ACPeds hack that exposed internal documents, some of which contain personal information.
Small nonprofit organizations often lack a sophisticated technological infrastructure to combat cyberattacks. In the case of ACPeds, the organization came under several targeted attacks April 24 when hackers attempted to access its website servers, email accounts, and social media accounts. Its cybersecurity measures repelled most of them, although an archived website—unused since 2019—was breached.
ACPeds immediately moved to shut down the website, but documents on a Google Drive were exposed and then leaked to the writer at Wired.
In the days since the hack, ACPeds staff have worked around the clock to tighten security. The group has regained access to the archived website and restricted access to the Google Drive documents, although not before Wired revealed the contents in a Tuesday article. However, even as of early Thursday morning, hackers were making new attempts to access ACPeds’ email distribution platform.
Dr. Jill Simons, a board-certified pediatrician and ACPeds’ executive director, contacted law enforcement agencies after the hack, including the FBI.
“This attack was intended to intimidate and incapacitate, and it will be costly to recover, but we will not be intimidated by these illegal bullying tactics that amount to a hate crime,” she said in a statement.
Simons also spoke to The Daily Signal in her first interview since the cyberattack.
“They don’t want to debate us because they can’t beat us on the facts and the science. They can’t even beat us on common sense,” she said. “Last week there was a coordinated, concerted attack on several of our organization’s key structures—our key technology structures, our databases, our financial accounts. … This was professional, and it was unrelenting.”
Wired’s article attempted to portray the worst-case scenario for ACPeds while also smearing the group’s doctors for their adherence to scientific truths and refusal to capitulate to societal pressure on issues like abortion and gender identity.
ACPeds describes itself as a “national organization of pediatricians and other health care professionals dedicated to the health and well-being of children. It was founded by a group of concerned physicians who saw the need for a pediatric organization that would not be influenced by the politically driven pronouncements of the day.”
The Heritage Foundation’s Roger Severino, former director of the Office of Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, defended the organization, noting that its doctors “provide children with health care that is based in science, not ideology.” (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of Heritage.)
“The American College of Pediatricians is under attack for one reason—because its members publicly speak the truth and protect innocent children from the Left’s dangerous pathologies,” Severino, vice president of domestic policy, said in a statement. “Because the radical Left can’t win in court or the ballot box, they resort to crime, intimidation, and doxxing. This assault on ACPeds is just further confirmation.”
ACPeds’ current policy priorities are to protect born and preborn children, to promote biological integrity regarding gender identity, and to defend conscience rights for health care professionals.
“Unfortunately, I’m seeing people in my own profession who are causing harm to these children and their families,” Simons said. “Those kids, those who can’t speak for themselves, the most vulnerable among us, that’s why we all have to speak up. That is just something we must do.”
Like other organizations grounded in the truth, ACPeds finds itself on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Hate Group” list, which Wired prominently referenced in the third paragraph of its story.
This wouldn’t be the first time the SPLC put a target on an organization like ACPeds. In 2012, an armed man opened fire at the Family Research Council, wounding a security guard. Convicted terrorist Floyd Lee Corkins II admitted to the FBI that he used the SPLC’s list to target FRC.
The social media posts of the hackers who publicized ACPeds’ private files indicate their disdain for ACPeds’ position on the gender identity issues. Plus, coming on the heels of the chemical abortion court ruling against the FDA, in which ACPeds is a plaintiff, the timing of the hack is probably no coincidence.
U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled April 7 in a case brought by ACPeds and others against the FDA. In his 67-page ruling, Kacsmaryk said the FDA “exceeded its authority” when it approved mifepristone using an accelerated process in 2000. An estimated 5 million people have used it.
Kacsmaryk’s decision quickly reached the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which blocked the FDA’s decision to allow the distribution of chemical abortion drugs through the mail, which began in 2021 in violation of federal law.
Those court victories are currently on hold, however, because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled April 21 that the 5th Circuit must hear arguments in the case.
ACPeds is one of four groups represented by Alliance Defending Freedom; the others include Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Christian Medical and Dental Associations. Four doctors are also involved in the lawsuit.
While awaiting a decision in the FDA case, Simons and her colleagues remain hopeful while also steeling themselves for what comes next.
“We are not alone in this battle for the well-being of children, and we are going to get through this,” Simons said. “Believe me, we are going to be stronger than ever. We’ve just begun to fight, and this has awakened a sleeping giant. We will not be intimidated.”
Editor’s Note: Following publication, this story was updated to include Dr. Jill Simons’ statement calling the attacks on ACPeds a “hate crime,” and comments from The Heritage Foundation’s Roger Severino.