Abortion is health care! Health care is a right!

Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk could be described as a xenophobic, white-supremacist, science-loathing, male chauvinist pig. Even that characterization might be too generous!

This Trump-appointed judge for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas ruled April 7 to nullify the approval by the Food and Drug Administration — in place since 2000 — of the abortifacient drug mifepristone. Over half of all abortions in the U.S. today are medication abortions.

With the stroke of a pen, the Amarillo, Texas-based Kacsmaryk attempted to strip every potentially pregnant person of bodily autonomy and give the state power over their reproductive decisions. 

Before his appointment, the judge, as an attorney and legal author, had a history of supporting anti-abortion and other right-wing causes. He wrote that transgender identity is “appropriately described as a delusion.” While deputy legal counsel for the First Liberty Institute, Kacsmaryk represented the Oregon baker who had refused to provide a cake for a same-sex wedding. As a judge he ruled in favor of President Donald Trump’s anti-migrant “Remain in Mexico” policy.

If the Texas ruling had been implemented, it would have forced untold numbers of women and others to carry unwanted pregnancies to term, travel far to seek abortions or resort to dangerous self-abortions. This decision should belong solely to the person most affected by it — not to the ultraright, misogynistic bigots of the bench.

One hour after Kacsmaryk’s reactionary decision, Judge Thomas Owen Rice of the Eastern District of Washington issued a contradictory ruling, that access to mifepristone should be left as is in the 17 states and D.C., which sued in his court to keep current access to the drug. 

Biden put rights at risk

President Joe Biden asked the U.S. Supreme Court — yes, that ultraconservative-dominated Supreme Court of the United States that overturned Roe v. Wade and gave states the green light to ban abortions — to resolve the conflict between the two simultaneous rulings.

In making that request to SCOTUS, Biden put the right to abortion at risk. But even in this misogynistic body, a majority voted to stay Kacsmaryk’s ruling. For now, mifepristone remains accessible. 

This is not a sign of fair-mindedness by the justices on the high court. Not by a long shot! But they feel the pressure of the mass movement for reproductive justice — the same movement that won the right to have a legal abortion 50 years ago, also from a conservative court.

Protest outside courthouse where Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk later ruled against abortion medication, Amarillo, Texas, Feb. 11, 2023. (Photo web source: News channel ABC 20)

The fight is far from over. The Supreme Court left the issue of access to mifepristone to the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas and is based in New Orleans. This court ruled April 12 to let stand the FDA’s 2000 strict restrictions on access, nullifying the removal of limitations the FDA approved in 2016 and later years, as the drug’s safety was proven. 

The Fifth Circuit is the most conservative appellate court in the U.S. If it decides the case in accordance with its prior decision, only certified doctors will be able to administer mifepristone – only up to seven weeks of pregnancy and only in their offices. It won’t be available by mail or from a pharmacist.

Reactionary judges, politicians and religious groups are making a concerted, coordinated effort to roll back the calendar. They want to go back to the 19th century, when a woman had no legal rights and was literally the property of her spouse.

They can and must be defeated — but the life-and-death battle for reproductive justice will only be won by the movement staying in the streets.

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