It’s not a coincidence that a Trump-appointed federal judge handed down an outrageous decision to ban the abortion pill mifepristone on the evening of Good Friday.
U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk is a Christian nationalist extremist, whose nomination the Freedom From Religion Foundation actively opposed for that reason, among many. Clearly, issuing this opinion on Good Friday had great meaning for this zealous believer.
But for those who believe in true religious liberty, it turned April 7 into a “Bad Friday,” even though the Biden administration has appealed. As University of Wisconsin Professor Emerita of Ethics Alta Charo astutely puts it: “The biggest threat that a decision like this brings is the threat of creating chaos.”
The decision is bound to embolden the actively anti-abortion state attorneys general and other such public officials, invariably conservative Christians, to seek ever more outrageous ways to deprive women and other persons carrying unwanted pregnancies of controlling their own destinies. (For a moving revelation of the impact of such bans, listen to the “This American Life” episode, “Nine Months Later,” speaking to several individuals who wanted abortions right as their state laws were changing.)
As has been thoroughly documented, Kacsmaryk was judge-shopped, with an anti-abortion group literally setting up shop in Amarillo, Texas, to bring its case before him. The Food and Drug Administration approved this safe drug 23 years ago. The group bringing suit has no standing to challenge the FDA.
Nevertheless, Kacsmaryk delivered as expected. His vocabulary throughout the 67-page decision is inflammatory, saying the FDA had authorized mifepristone “to kill the unborn human” and using the inaccurate term, “chemical abortion,” to describe the two-pill regimen that starts with mifepristone.
The judge even repeats the tired anti-abortion trope that women “often experience shame, regret, anxiety, depression, drug abuse and suicidal thoughts because of the abortion,” which studies (most recently the Turnaway Study) have long debunked. The most common response actually is “relief.”
He seemingly argues that fetuses have the same rights as born women, and said outright that the Comstock Act of 1873 “plainly forecloses mail-order abortion.” Quoting Justice Clarence Thomas — despite the recent ProPublica revelations of 25 years of undeclared gifts, travel, resort stays and vacations on Thomas’ part — Kacsmaryk compares abortion to eugenics.
A contrary ruling was handed down on Friday by Judge Thomas O. Rice of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, ordering the FDA to maintain the status quo and blocking it from restricting its availability in 17 pro-choice states plus Washington, D.C. It’s inevitable that the issue will reach the Supreme Court that overturned Roe v. Wade almost a year ago.
As FFRF asked a month ago, at the time Kacsmaryk heard this Alice-in-Wonderland challenge: Why is this judge allowed to practice medicine without a license? Why is any judge — or justice — permitted to do so?