A judge in Texas overseeing a lawsuit in which a conservative group is challenging the legality of the abortion drug mifepristone scheduled the first hearing in the case for Wednesday.
The suit could determine whether women can access abortion drugs, but the judge is trying to limit disruptions and protests.
The judge directed that court officials not make the timing public until the evening before.
Matthew Kacsmaryk, a U.S. district court judge in Amarillo appointed by then-president Donald Trump in 2019, ordered the hearing kept out of the court docket as a way to try to limit disruptions and protests and also asked that lawyers arguing the case not to disclose information.
Observers and experts said Kacsmaryk’s decision to delay placing the hearing in the public schedule was highly problematic, given the case could affect 40 million women.
The hearing will present an opportunity for lawyers at the Department of Justice, which represents the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the drug’s manufacturer, Danco Laboratories, to present arguments for continued federal approval.
The lawsuit is being closely watched.
The one conservative Texas judge could completely throw abortion pill access into question. With an issue as controversial as this, there should be as much access as possible to the trial, law experts are warning.
The case is regarded as the most consequential since a conservative-dominated supreme court containing three Trump picks last year ended the right to abortion with the Dobbs ruling, throwing the question back to the states.
Kacsmaryk told attorneys he wanted to delay publicizing the hearing because court staff, and he and his family had faced threats.
Experts say that while there may be security concerns, justice should tolerate that and that the really troubling fact is that the judge wants lawyers to be quiet. People should be able to hear what the judge’s criticisms are, what questions he’s asking, and how persuasive the arguments are, and have maximum transparency and openness in a federal court proceeding.