Feb 28, 2023 - News

The Texas judge deciding the future of abortion pills

Photo: Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images

A federal judge with local roots has the power to take down an abortion pill that has been around for decades.

Why it matters: Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk — who grew up in North Texas and once taught at SMU — will decide if Mifepristone can continue to be sold in the U.S.

The big picture: Conservative groups have identified Kacsmaryk's court, in the Amarillo division of the Northern District of Texas, as a go-to place to challenge a wide range of Biden administration policies.

Context: Hoping to curtail the use of Mifepristone for abortions, anti-abortion rights groups have alleged in Kacsmaryk's court that the FDA didn't properly study the drug's safety before approving it in 2000.

  • The Biden administration is bracing for a "worst-case scenario" if Kacsmaryk rules that Mifepristone should be banned.
  • Abortion rights advocates are worried the decision could severely limit the options for pregnant people across the country, from Democratic-led states where abortion remains legal to states like Texas that have a near-total ban on the procedure.

Background: Kacsmaryk didn't comment for the Washington Post's recent profile, but his friends and family describe him as a devoted anti-abortion activist inspired by his sister's decision to give birth at a maternity home at age 17.

  • Kacsmaryk also volunteered on several Republican campaigns, including for Gov. Greg Abbott and Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, before then-President Trump nominated him to the federal judiciary in 2017, and the U.S. Senate confirmed him in 2019.

Yes, but: Kacsmaryk told the Senate in 2017 that he would rule based on the law, not on his personal views.

  • "As a judge, I'm no longer in the advocate role," he said, according to the Post. "I'm in the role of reading and applying with all good faith whatever Supreme Court and 5th Circuit precedent is binding."

Of note: Kacsmaryk is also presiding over a lawsuit filed by anti-vaccine activists led by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. The lawsuit accuses several media outlets, including the Washington Post, of colluding to censor their views on coronavirus vaccines.

Between the lines: Texas has become a "legal graveyard for Biden policies" because its court divisions are stacked with conservative federal judges, per CNN.

  • While in Amarillo, Kacsmaryk has delivered several key decisions for the right, including limiting protections for transgender Americans and pausing Biden's attempt to end the Trump-era "Remain in Mexico" program.

What they're saying: Kacsmaryk's sister told the Post she's glad he is the judge on the abortion pill case.

  • "I feel like he was made for this. He is exactly where he needs to be," she told the Post.
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