On January 20, 2025, conservatives plan to resurrect a 150-year-old defunct law to ban abortion across the nation. This is not a secret plan—far from it. It’s part of the 180-Day Playbook produced by Project 2025, detailing priorities for an incoming conservative president on day one. These 900 pages lay out a Christian nationalist vision of the United States, one in which married heterosexuality is the only valid form of sexual expression and identity; all pregnancies would be carried to term, even if that requires coercion or death; and transgender and gender-nonconforming people do not exist.
Project 2025’s 180-Day Playbook is driven by such ideology. “Look at America under the ruling and cultural elite today,” writes Kevin Roberts, president of the Heritage Foundation, in the document’s foreword: “Children suffer the toxic normalization of transgenderism with drag queens and pornography invading their school libraries.” Project 2025 claims to present the “consensus recommendations” of “the entire conservative movement” for addressing purported crises like these: The first guiding principle is “Restore the family as the centerpiece of American life and protect our children.”
The hundreds of pages that follow lay out specific plans for each department—from Health and Human Services and Education to Labor and Justice. Make no mistake: As steeped as Project 2025 is in the conspiratorial imagination of the right, its plan is comprehensive and dangerous. Health care providers, educators, employers, and the government’s own civil rights enforcement apparatus, among many others, would all be marshaled to ensure our acquiescence in this dictatorial male supremacist society.
This is not the first such playbook to come out of the Heritage Foundation, which has been doing this kind of thing since Ronald Reagan. But Project 2025 isn’t an empty document, nor is it solely a Heritage Foundation project: Heritage has brought in more than 90 conservative organizations as an advisory board, with some drawing their leadership from former Trump administration staff. That includes Paul Dans, who worked in Trump’s Office of Personnel Management and now leads Project 2025. Alongside the playbook, Project 2025 is currently vetting thousands of “conservative warriors,” as Dans has called them, who can be installed quickly in all the positions required to make the playbook a reality. Dans and others have characterized Project 2025 as dismantling the power of the administrative state, but it would also concentrate power in a capacious and unchecked executive branch, operating on the premise of the “unitary executive” theory. As my colleague Matt Ford has written, this theory argues that “the executive branch’s powers reside entirely within the president; all other officials simply exercise them on his behalf and serve at his whim.”
Dozens of groups behind Project 2025 have been working on this since at least 2022. Heritage announced Project 2025’s advisory board on the same day the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, as if this was in some way the next logical step. That board includes many familiar names in anti-abortion rights and anti-LGBTQ rights politics, such as Alliance Defending Freedom, which brought the case that overturned Roe; America First Legal, led by former Trump adviser Stephen Miller, which sought to depose the leadership of two Texas abortion funds; the Claremont Institute (sample brief from a Claremont fellow: “How Activists Use Your Tax Dollars to Sexualize Kids at School”); Family Research Council (sample brief: “Why Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Should Never Be Specially Protected Categories Under the Law”); and Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America. Along with the advisory board, altogether more than 90 groups have signed onto Project 2025. Some have received substantial contributions from Heritage—nearly $1 million, according to tax filings obtained by Accountable.US and reported by NBC News. That accounts for 58 percent of Heritage’s total giving in 2022, the year Project 2025 began. Around 40 of the Project 2025 groups have also received funding from Leonard Leo–linked dark money groups, for instance more than $16.5 million from DonorsTrust in 2022.
In such a lengthy, expansive plan, it can be easy to get lost in the details. This may be intentional, bogging down discussion and complicating reporting on the project’s potential impact. So let’s focus on the vision of society driving the blueprint. That means beginning with Project 2025’s threat to bodily autonomy: how Project 2025’s drafters plan to mandate their narrowly defined and state-enforced patriarchal, heterosexual, married, procreating family and how they plan to confine people within that vision.
Here are the policies attacking bodily autonomy that Project 2025 wants the next conservative presidential administration—presumably, Donald Trump’s—to announce or set in motion on day one.
Equate legal personhood with heterosexuality, gender conformity, and compulsory motherhood by removing mention of any alternative from all laws, all government agencies, all grants and contracts, and any other official regulations. “The next conservative President must make the institutions of American civil society hard targets for woke culture warriors,” Project 2025’s playbook states in its foreword. A “hard target” is a term of art in the military, security, and surveillance, referring to a secured location meant to withstand an outside threat. “Hardening” the target in this case, the playbook continues, “starts with deleting the terms sexual orientation and gender identity (“SOGI”), diversity, equity, and inclusion (“DEI”), gender, gender equality, gender equity, gender awareness, gender-sensitive, abortion, reproductive health, reproductive rights, and any other term used to deprive Americans of their First Amendment rights [note: the reference to First Amendment rights here is typically code for a religiously or otherwise motivated choice to discriminate] out of every federal rule, agency regulation, contract, grant, regulation, and piece of legislation that exists.”
This deletion of terms is a global recommendation in the playbook. Everything else is premised on this. It is not new: The Trump administration proposed redefining “sex” across all federal agencies in 2018, in such a way as to exclude trans people, which could in turn result in denying trans people protections under anti-discrimination laws. “A policy that allows for increased job and housing discrimination, among other forms of discrimination, allows for government-enforced poverty and homelessness for an entire generation of people who simply want to live their lives as their authentic selves,” noted activist Evan Greer at the time. “The end goal here is no less than the complete ostracization of transgender people from public life: This is an attempt to disappear us.” When asked whether they saw these efforts as an attempt at erasing types of people, neither Project 2025 nor the Heritage Foundation responded to our emails before publication. Erasure from official records and policy often accompanies exclusion in other concrete ways—which Project 2025 also suggests.
Establish not individuals but families—specifically one married mother, one father, and their biological children—as the basis for governmental policy. Throughout the report, and in the Health and Human Services chapter especially, the family, adhering to this rigid definition, is privileged as the basis for policy. The roadmap says the next HHS secretary should “proudly state that men and women are biological realities that are crucial to the advancement of life sciences and medical care and that married men and women are the ideal, natural family structure.” It claims that under Biden, HHS is “fraught with agenda items focusing on ‘LGBTQ+ equity,’ subsidizing single-motherhood, disincentivizing work, and penalizing marriage. These policies should be repealed and replaced by policies that support the formation of stable, married, nuclear families.” In addition to gutting any policy related to LGBTQ families or single-mother-led families, some of those replacement proposals include “prioritiz[ing] married father engagement” in health and welfare policies, emphasizing marriage in health and education programs, ending the Head Start preschool program for low-income families, and allowing child abuse prevention funds to go to marriage-promotion programming. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should be directed to “eliminate programs and projects that do not respect human life and conscience rights and that undermine family formation.”
Project 2025 proposes, in short, that the government do everything in its power to mandate every woman carry every pregnancy to term and marry the father of the child she births. (It also decrees that only women can become pregnant.) It says the government should do this by excluding, defunding, or eliminating any other options.
Adopt the position that abortion is murder and harms women. Strike the word “abortion” from all laws, policies, and regulations. The playbook says the government should pursue research on “the comparative health and psychological benefits of childbirth versus the health and psychological risks of intentionally taking a human life through abortion.” This research question preemptively takes the stance that the government should consider abortion to be murder. It also specifies that the CDC “should ensure that it is not promoting abortion as health care.” Instead, the government should “create and promote a research agenda that supports pro-life policies and explores the harms, both mental and physical, that abortion has wrought on women and girls.” How it will do all this without using the now-banned word “abortion” is unclear.
Overhaul policy and research to deny the existence of transgender and nonbinary people, and instead pursue methods of ensuring children remain the sex they were assigned at birth. The playbook states that the president should declare to education agencies and officials “that ‘sex’ is properly understood as a fixed biological fact.” The CDC should be ordered to stop “collecting data on gender identity, which legitimizes the unscientific notion that men can become women (and vice versa) and encourages the phenomenon of ever-multiplying subjective identities.” The playbook suggests the president eliminate all government research involving transgender people, claiming that the National Institute for Health is “at the forefront in pushing junk gender science,” and recommending that the next HHS secretary “should immediately put an end to the department’s foray into woke transgender activism.”
There is an exception: “Fund studies into the short-term and long-term negative effects of cross-sex interventions, including ‘affirmation,’ puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and surgeries, and the likelihood of [desistance] if young people are given counseling that does not include medical or social interventions.” That is, research on gender-nonconforming children and teenagers should be funded by the government, but only for the purpose of studying what will make them conform, such as denying them gender-affirming care and instead trying to change their identities through “counseling,” which is a form of conversion therapy. Related to this, the playbook says all school staff should be prohibited from referring to any student by a gender or name different from the one on their birth certificate without the written permission of the student’s parents or guardians. They playbook claims that data point to transgender identity being a “social contagion.” For this, they cite the anti-trans writer and activist Abigail Shrier.
Outlaw anything conservatives deem “pornographic,” treating the public presence and depictions of queer and trans people as a threat to children and families. Shut down or imprison any individual or company that discusses or shares such depictions. “Pornography should be outlawed,” the roadmap decrees. “The people who produce and distribute it should be imprisoned. Educators and public librarians who purvey it should be classed as registered sex offenders. And telecommunications and technology firms that facilitate its spread should be shuttered.”
It’s important to understand what conservatives mean by “pornography” here. The roadmap refers (in its Foreword) to “pornography, manifested today in the omnipresent propagation of transgender ideology and sexualization of children.” This language suggests that the document is adopting the thesis animating right-wing threats and attacks targeting LGBTQ spaces, books, and people: the old trope that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are out to recruit children and that depictions of their lives are meant to seduce children away from heterosexuality. This thinking holds that transgender people are evidence of a contagious “ideology,” at risk of infecting children. (Requests to define what was meant here by “pornography” sent to both Project 2025 and Kevin Roberts, president of Heritage and author of the foreword, did not get a response by time of publication.)
So what the Project 2025 playbook seems to be proposing here is that public institutions such as schools and libraries regard any presence or depiction of queer and trans life as a potential sex offense, to be reported. Similarly, social media platforms would risk government seizure if they serve as a platform for any presence or depiction of queer and trans life.
abortion. Until then, surveil abortion in the areas in which it remains legal
in order to prioritize criminal cases against “chemical abortion” and “abortion
playbook says the president should enforce a 150-year-old law, the Comstock
Act, which right-wing groups see as a way to ban abortion nationally because it
outlaws the use of the mail for the purposes of sending or receiving any object
that could be used for an abortion. It is the position of the playbook that mailing
abortion pills—what they call “chemical abortion”—is already illegal in every
state. (The Comstock Act is written broadly enough that any device used in
abortion could be considered outlawed; when asked if they believed Comstock
only banned medication abortion, neither Project 2025 or Heritage responded.) The
playbook never mentions the Comstock Act by name; one reference to the law is crammed
into a paragraph on China on page 285. (Instead, footnotes reference the
Comstock Act by the numbers used in the U.S. criminal code.) The playbook also
calls for the intensive policing of what it calls “abortion tourism,” in which
people travel from no-access states to states where abortion is available: “Because
liberal states have now become sanctuaries for abortion tourism, HHS should use
every available tool, including the cutting of funds, to ensure that every
state reports exactly how many abortions take place within its borders, at what
gestational age of the child, for what reason, the mother’s state of residence,
and by what method.” They also want emergency rooms to collect data on
miscarriages to try to determine whether patients had taken abortion pills. If
you have an abortion using pills, it is the position of Project 2025 that your
abortion becomes a crime on January 20, 2025.
This is the America envisioned by Project 2025: one in which gender and sexuality are not acknowledged as actually existing outside patriarchal, nuclear families. All that exists here is mothers and babies, children and families. Each family is meant to function as an extension of the state, dedicated to controlling and confining sex, gender, and sexuality, with all the coercive power and violence that would require. Full compliance could only be accomplished through self-policing under intimidation. These groups know they cannot expect people to do that completely. They know they cannot force everyone to be straight, to marry, to deny their gender, to birth a child. They know people will refuse. What they want is to use that inevitable noncompliance as a threat and a tool.
This playbook, the groups and donors behind it, the installation of ideologically motivated staff across government agencies, and the theory that the Constitution permits the executive to rule absolutely, is more than guidance for a new conservative presidential administration. It is also one of the right’s most open admissions that they aim to install an authoritarian ruler and roll out a twenty-first-century American fascism. At its heart is a plan of mass reproductive and sexual coercion, casting whole populations as deviants who threaten the nation, denying them legal personhood. Historically, it has been a short step from there to plans to eliminate whole classes of people altogether.