Texas-based Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk is poised to change the entire market for abortion pills.
Kacsmaryk, who was nominated by former President Donald Trump in 2019, is a known conservative and has a track record of viewing abortion unfavorably. He is currently hearing arguments over whether the Food and Drug Administration improperly approved mifepristone for widespread use more than 20 years ago. Reports from the Wednesday hearing thus far indicate that Kacsmaryk entertained disproven claims that the abortion medication is unsafe.
A coalition of anti-abortion groups and individuals filed the lawsuit in November specifically in Amarillo, Texas. Amarillo is a federal district with a single judge, meaning the plaintiffs could essentially guarantee that Kacsmaryk would hear their case, a practice known as “forum shopping.”
It seems unethical, but it’s a common practice on both sides of the political divide. During the 2017 Senate hearing for his current job, Kacsmaryk promised to be fair and said he didn’t believe judges should impose their religious beliefs on their rulings. But his actions both during and before his judicial career have abortion rights advocates bracing for one of the biggest blows since Roe v. Wade was overturned.
Kacsmaryk and his siblings were raised deeply Christian and taught from an early age that abortion was wrong. Over the years, he has published multiple essays arguing against the procedure, including in college, when he described abortion as “the federally sanctioned eradication of innocent human life.”
Kacsmaryk worked for several law firms in the early 2000s and at different divisions of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas from 2008 to 2013.
In 2014, he became the deputy general counsel at First Liberty Institute, a conservative legal group that has challenged anti-discrimination laws and birth control coverage. During his time there, Kacsmaryk represented the Christian owners of a bakery in Oregon who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
In commentary and legal briefs, he said same-sex marriage would send the U.S. “on a road to potential tyranny,” and the demand for “so-called marriage equality” was a “complete abuse of rule of law principles.”
Two months before Trump nominated him to the bench, Kacsmaryk met with administration budget officials at the White House to argue that businesses should be allowed to refuse to cover their employees’ contraception based on religious or moral beliefs.
Kacsmaryk also served as a trustee of Christian Homes and Family Services starting in 2014. The group works to dissuade people from getting abortions and instead carry the pregnancy to term and then give the child up for adoption to a Christian family.
Although Kacsmaryk left the organization’s board when he joined the bench in 2019, he and his wife are still donors.
Since assuming his current position, Kacsmaryk has ruled in several high-profile cases, including striking down Biden administration protections for transgender people and forcing thousands of asylum-seekers to return to Mexico while their cases are processed.
Most recently, in December, Kacsmaryk ruled that health clinics that provide birth control to minors violate Texas law and federal constitutional rights, shutting down a crucial channel for reproductive health care in the state.
If he rules that mifepristone was improperly approved, the case will likely be appealed. It could go all the way to the Supreme Court, but the nine justices have already made clear what they think about abortion rights. And it isn’t looking good.