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Who is Matthew Kacsmaryk, the Trump-appointed Texas judge who could ban abortion pills?

Lloyd Lee   

Who is Matthew Kacsmaryk, the Trump-appointed Texas judge who could ban abortion pills?
  • Matthew Kacsmaryk is a Texas federal judge who was nominated by Donald Trump in 2017.
  • Since his confirmation, the judge has handed several cases in favor of conservative causes.

Matthew Kacsmaryk, 45, is a federal judge for the Amarillo division of the Northern District of Texas and is presiding over a lawsuit that seeks to ban an FDA-approved abortion pill — a decision that could have nationwide implications for the drug's availability.

The suit, filed by the Alliance For Hippocratic Medicine, targets the Federal Drug Administration's 2000 approval of mifepristone, a medication abortion that can be prescribed in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.

On Friday, Kacsmaryk issued a suspension of the FDA approval with a one-week window for the federal government to appeal and seek emergency relief, meaning that the ban will not go immediately into effect.

Shortly after the ruling, Justice Department attorneys and a lawyer from Danco Laboratories, which manufactures a version of mifepristone, submitted an appeal to Kacsmaryk's decision.

Experts have argued the lawsuit relies on false claims about the drug. Attorneys for the American Medical Association and other groups have said that the drug is about as safe as ibuprofen and that Viagra and childbirth pose many more risks.

In his Friday decision, Kacsymaryk appeared sympathetic to the plaintiff's arguments, stating that the "FDA acquiesced on its legitimate safety concerns" and referred to the pill as "chemical abortion."

The Texas judge has a decadeslong affiliation to conservative causes and has been an outspoken opponent of abortion for years.

Here's what we know about Kacsmaryk:

What was his upbringing like?

Kacsmaryk — pronounced kaz-mare-ik — was born in 1977 in Gainesville, Florida, according to the Federal Judicial Center.

He was raised in Forth Worth, Texas, by born-again Christians, his sister, Jennifer Griffith, told The Washington Post.

Religion was a critical part of the Kacsmaryk household, which regularly attended West Freeway Church of Christ, according to the Post's profile of the judge.

Griffith told the newspaper the children were taught early on that abortion was wrong. Their mother, Dorothy, is a microbiologist who began working at anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers, she said.

Kacsmaryk is "very passionate about the fact that you can't preach pro-life and do nothing," Griffith told the Post.

Where did he go to school?

Kacsmaryk graduated from Abilene Christian University in 1999 and received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 2003.

In a blog post highlighting Kacsmaryk's confirmation as a "win for religious freedom," First Liberty Institute, a Christian conservative nonprofit, wrote how he met Kelly Shackelford, the organization's CEO, when he took her class on religious freedom at law school. About a decade later, Kacsmaryk would take on cases for the organization as a deputy general counsel, according to a questionnaire all judicial nominees must fill out before their confirmation.

The Post reported that it was during law school when Kacsmaryk focused on abortion rights. He and Rep. Chip Roy, who represents the 21st District of Texas, attended meetings of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group, at law school and would discuss the Supreme Court's landmark ruling of Roe v. Wade.

"I very clearly remember having conversations at length about how the Supreme Court had contorted itself to achieve the ends of a policy outcome the result of which was tearing asunder the fabric of our country," Roy told the Post.

Kacsmaryk also served as the executive editor of the Texas Review of Law & Politics and received two Dean's Achievement Awards, according to the questionnaire.

What has he previously said about abortion and his political views?

During his undergraduate years, studying political science, Kacsmaryk was outspoken about his conservative views and stances on abortion.

In a 1996 letter to the editor published in his college newspaper, Kacsmaryk advocated for extending full legal rights to an "unborn child."

"The Democratic Party's ability to condone the federally sanctioned eradication of innocent human life is indicative of the moral ambivalence undergirding this party," he wrote. "Perhaps more than any other national institution, the liberal Democratic Party and its ideological affiliates have facilitated the demise of America's Christian heritage."

The letter also appeared to criticize the idea of "homosexuality as a legitimate alternate familial unit" and the Clinton administration's repeal of a ban on LGBTQ members serving in the military.

He also led the College Republicans group, the Post reported.

In 2015, Kacsmaryk published two articles lambasting same-sex marriage and abortion rights.

In the National Catholic Register, Kacsmaryk wrote how decades of litigation have removed "three pillars of marriage law: first, permanence; second, exclusivity; and third, procreation."

"The third pillar fell when the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional nearly all restrictions on contraceptives and abortion in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), Eisenstadt v. Baird (1965), Roe v. Wade (1973), and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992)," he wrote.

Who nominated Kacsmaryk?

Donald Trump nominated Kacsmaryk for a lifetime appointment in 2017.

The Senate confirmed Kacsmaryk in June 2019 almost across party lines with the exception of Sen. Susan Collins.

"Mr. Kacsmaryk has dismissed proponents of reproductive choice as 'sexual revolutionaries,' and disdainfully criticized the legal foundations of Roe v. Wade," Collins said in a statement at the time. "Such extreme statements reflect poorly on Mr. Kacsmaryk's temperament and suggest an inability to respect precedent and to apply the law fairly and impartially."

During his confirmation hearing, Kacsmaryk was asked if judges ever apply their religious beliefs while deciding on a case.

"They should not," he said.

What were some of his recent major rulings?

Kacsmaryk's law practice has varied, at once focusing on intellectual property cases while at Baker Botts LLP and later arguing cases involving "terrorism, fraud, forgery, counterfeiting, firearms, drug-trafficking," among other crimes, while as the assistant district attorney for the Northern District of Texas, according to his resume.

Before he was confirmed, he represented two Oregon-based Christian bakers who refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple in 2013 while with the First Liberty Institute.

More recent high-profile cases include a November ruling that struck down the Biden administration's effort to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in healthcare.

Kacsmaryk also paused the current administration's attempt to end a Trump-era law known as the "remain in Mexico" border policy, which requires asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while their status is being processed.

In December, Kacsmaryk ruled in favor of a Texas father's case that challenged Title X, a federal program that provides access to contraceptives to teenagers without parental consent.

The federal judge ruled that Title X denies the "fundamental right to control and direct the upbringing of his minor children."

A spokesperson at Kacsmaryk's chambers could not be reached for comment.

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