U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Amarillo, Texas has set a hearing for Wednesday in a lawsuit over a nationwide ban of medication abortion.
Kacsmaryk will consider whether to temporarily halt sales of the drug mifepristone—even in states where abortion remains legal—while the lawsuit proceeds.
The Texas lawsuit seeks to revoke the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone, which is one of two drugs used in a medication abortion.
Anti-abortion groups including the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine sued the FDA last November, claiming the agency used an improper process to approve mifepristone in the year 2000 and did not adequately consider its safety for minors.
The federal government has countered that the abortion drug’s approval was well supported by science, and that the challenge, more than two decades after its legalization, comes much too late.
In a conference call with attorneys on Friday to schedule the hearing Wednesday, Kacsmaryk said he would delay putting the hearing on the docket until late Tuesday to try to minimize potential disruptions and protests. The judge further asked attorneys on the call not to share information until then.
According to The Washington Post, Kacsmaryk’s apparent delay in placing the hearing on the docket is highly unusual, as public access to federal court proceedings is a key principle of the American judicial system. The judge and his staff did not respond to emails from the Post requesting comment.
However, the News Media Coalition accused Kacsmaryk’s trial delay of being “unconstitutional,” adding that it “undermines the important values served by public access to judicial proceedings and court records.” In the end, Kacsmaryk announced Wednesday’s hearing on Monday afternoon in a new entry on the public docket.
Legal experts say the Texas lawsuit could be the most significant abortion case in the U.S. since the Supreme Court’s June 24 ruling in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Healthcare that overturned Roe v Wade and the Constitutional right to abortion.
Any decision by Kacsmaryk would likely be appealed to the conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, and possibly to the Supreme Court.