US judge in abortion pill case has links to the Christian far right

Line-up before step-off of QUEER LIBERATION MARCH near Sheridan Square along 7th Avenue between Christopher Street and Grove Street in New York City, NY on Sunday morning, 30 June 2019 by Elvert Barnes Photography Follow Reclaim Pride Coalition NYC Sunday, 30 June 2019 QUEER LIBERATION MARCH & RALLY
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-The judge poised to decide the future of abortion pill access across the US is a former lawyer for the Christian far-right.

Until 2019, Matthew Kacsmaryk was a lawyer representing a Christian organization aligned with the US religious right. That is, until Donald Trump made him a federal judge for life.

Kacsmaryk has been in the spotlight ever since an anti-abortion coalition sued the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), seeking to overturn the federal agency’s approval of the mifepristone abortion pill over 20 years ago.

On Thursday 16 March protesters gathered outside a hearing on the case bearing signs that read “Defend Medication Abortion” and “Not Your Uterus, Not Your Opinion”.

‘Not a coincidence’

By filing the suit in Amarillo, Texas, the anti-abortion campaigners were certain that Kacsmaryk would oversee the case. He is the only sitting federal judge in the city.

That was not a coincidence, said American Civil Liberties Union project director Jennifer Dalven. She said that the anti-abortion group behind the suit “was able to hand-select their judge” in this manner.

She added that:

Read on...

In any rational universe, this case would be laughed out of court on multiple grounds.

Far-right Christian activism

Before assuming his life-long post as a federal judge, Kacsmaryk was a lawyer for the First Liberty Institute, a Texas-based group that focused on cases surrounding religious freedom.

These included representing bakers who refused to make a wedding cake for same-sex couples because it violated their Christian beliefs, and supporting a public high school coach who was fired after praying on the field with students.

While at First Liberty Institute, Kacsmaryk openly opposed the Supreme Court’s landmark decision to legalize same-sex marriage, as well as transgender people’s right to use bathrooms matching their own gender identity.

Kacsmaryk also wrote an anti-abortion article in 2015. In it, he decried what he called the “sexual revolution” that was  “spearheaded by secular libertines”.

A record of social conservatism

Kacsmaryk’s appointment as a federal Judge was hotly contested. He was appointed to his position by former president Donald Trump. Then, he was confirmed in 2019 by a Republican-controlled Senate. One opponent at the time said that Kacsmaryk demonstrated:

 a hostility to the LGBTQ bordering on paranoia.

Kacsmaryk promised before taking office that he would not let his beliefs influence his legal rulings. However, his track record says otherwise.

While he has mostly dealt with low-level cases since taking office in Amarillo, Kacsmaryk has already ruled against reproductive rights. Late last year, he ruled that a federal program which funds contraception for minors without their parents’ consent was illegal.

It is no surprise then, that supporters of bodily autonomy and reproductive rights in the US are deeply concerned about the ruling that he will make in the abortion pill case.

Additional reporting by Agence France Presse

Featured image via Wikimedia/Elvert Barnes (cropped to 770 x 403px)

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