Texas Judge Wanted to Delay Publicizing Abortion Pill Hearing: Report

  • Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk is overseeing a lawsuit that challenges the FDA approval of mifepristone.
  • A ruling could have nationwide implications for the drug’s availability.
  • A hearing was scheduled for Wednesday, but the judge hoped to delay publicizing the date, per WaPo.

A hearing for a lawsuit that could have significant outcomes for a government-approved abortion pill, mifepristone, has been scheduled for Wednesday.

But the Texas judge overseeing the case — who is known for his conservative politics and anti-abortion stance — hoped to hide the date of the hearing until right before the scheduled date, The Washington Post reported.

In a call with attorneys on Friday, Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk said he wanted to delay putting the hearing on the public docket until late Tuesday, people familiar with the call told the Post. The sources requested anonymity because they were not allowed to discuss the call, according to the publication.

The lawsuit was filed by an anti-abortion group that calls itself the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine and hopes to reverse a nearly three-decade-old approval of mifepristone by the Food and Drug Administration.

Kacsmaryck reasoned that he wanted to reduce possible disruptions and protests for the hearing. In addition, he told attorneys on the call that members of the courthouse have received threats due to the lawsuit, the Post reported.

The courthouse, which is located in Amarillo, Texas, is closed on the weekends and could not immediately return a request for comment.

Publicizing the date of a court hearing ahead of time is common practice in the US. According to the report, the Post had attempted to seek information about the date of the hearing before the Friday call but received no response.

Attorneys for medical organizations including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have said the lawsuit relies on false claims that mischaracterize an otherwise safe drug.

The Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine has described mifepristone in their suit as an “endocrine disrupter” — referencing how the drug temporarily blocks progesterone receptors in the uterus —  and could disrupt an adolescent’s development.

But attorneys for the medical groups have called the claims “completely unfounded.”

“There is no reason to think, nor is there evidence to show, that preventing the absorption of progesterone for a brief window would have any effects on adolescent development,” the attorneys wrote in a brief, responding to the suit.

“Medication abortion including mifepristone is safe and effective. This is not an opinion — it is a fact based on hundreds of medical studies and vast amounts of data amassed over the course of two decades,” the attorneys said.”Reversing the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, in whole or in any part, would cause profound and irreparable harm to patients across the country.”

The brief noted that the drug is not just used for abortions but also to treat people who have suffered a miscarriage. Viagra, which is associated with 4.9 deaths for every 100,000 prescriptions, and childbirth are more likely to result in death than mifepristone, the lawyers argued.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs and defendants did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

More than 150 abortion rights supporters gathered in front of the Amarillo courthouse in early February to express support for the pill, according to the Post.

Kacsmaryk’s hand in the case in particular has caused concern about the fate of the drug’s approval, considering the judge’s outspoken views on abortion. In his undergraduate years at Abilene Christian University,  Kacsmaryk called Deomcrat’s support for abortion an indication of “moral ambivalence” in the party. Years later, he wrote an editorial for the National Catholic Register about how the right to abortion was one way “sexual revolutionaries” removed the “three pillars of marriage law.”

A ruling in the case could impact mifepristone’s nationwide availability. Any ruling by the federal judge could lead to an appeal on the case and eventually send the lawsuit to a conservative-majority Supreme Court.

When a draft ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked in May, protestors descended to the Capitol to condemn what would become one of the rare instances the Supreme Court reversed a landmark decision.

Texas is now one of 13 states that have banned most abortions in the aftermath of the Court’s ruling.

Earlier this month, The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit against the state on behalf of four women who say that they have gone through a near-fatal experience or illness during their pregnancy because doctors did not want to perform abortions out of concern for breaking the law.

One of the women, Amanda Zurawaski, nearly died because doctors in Texas denied treatment for her even after she was told her pregnancy was not viable, the lawsuit claimed.

Texas provides limited exceptions for abortions in the case of medical emergencies but the suit argues that the law provides little clarity on what those cases can be.

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