Matthew Kacsmaryk is an anti-abortion judge in Texas appointed by Donald Trump. He's holding a crucial hearing Wednesday in an unprecedented case that could upend nationwide medication abortion access. And though we don’t yet know exactly what the judge will decide (it would be surprising if he doesn’t side against abortion in some fashion), it’s worth understanding the shady legal machinations that brought us to this point.
For one thing, it’s no accident that the case is before Kacsmaryk. He’s known to side with Republican causes, including against abortion rights. The plaintiffs seemingly brought the case in the city of Amarillo because they knew that Kacsmaryk, the federal judge hearing civil cases there, would likely be the one to handle it. The Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, represented by the right-wing legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, incorporated in Amarillo just months before filing suit.
As for the substance of the case, such as it is, the anti-abortion plaintiffs challenge the decades-old Food and Drug Administration approval of mifepristone, a pill commonly used in medication abortions nationwide. The plaintiffs raise bogus safety concerns about the long-used medicine, but obviously their goal is restricting abortion, and this lawsuit provides a means for doing so. The Washington Post noted Wednesday that Kacsmaryk’s eventual ruling could be “the first time a court has ordered the government to withdraw or suspend approval of a medication despite opposition from the FDA and the drug’s manufacturer.”
Even the scheduling of Wednesday’s hearing has been controversial. Apparently, Kacsmaryk didn’t want the public to know about it too far in advance. The Post reported over the weekend that the Trump appointee, citing worries about disruptions and threats, told lawyers in the case that he wasn’t going to give public notice of the hearing until Tuesday night. A media coalition including NBCUniversal News Group, the parent company of MSNBC, complained to the judge Monday, raising constitutional and transparency concerns. Kacsmaryk posted notice of the hearing that day.
That doesn’t mean that you’ll be able to listen in, however, because the court doesn’t livestream arguments to the general public, and watchdog Fix the Court’s specific livestream request for the hearing was denied.
Of course, Kacsmaryk’s ruling, whatever it winds up being, is poised for appeal either way. That means the Supreme Court’s Republican-appointed majority, which overruled decades of federal abortion rights last year, gets the last word, with a stop at the unhinged 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals along the way.
And this case, which could affect abortion nationwide, provides the latest proof that the conservative claim of merely returning the issue to the states is a lie. States that have chosen to allow abortion could nonetheless be affected by this cooked-up case. But however the Trump judge kicks off the inevitable chain of appeals, and however the case ends, it’s worth remembering how it started.