Abortion pill challenge goes before judge in Texas

Protesters gathered outside the federal courthouse in Amarillo Wednesday night, anxiously awaiting a ruling from Trump-appointed judge Matthew Kacsmaryk on the future of the abortion pill, mifepristone, in a case brought by Texas pro-life groups.

"Our corrupt administration, our corrupt FDA, they have essentially turned every woman’s bathroom into an abortion facility," said pro-life advocate Abby Johnson, speaking at the Texas Capitol Monday.

The suit alleges the FDA improperly approved the drug 23 years ago, without doing adequate safety testing. The plaintiffs are trying to get that approval reversed—which would temporarily block the drug from being sold nationwide. It’s commonly used as part of a two-pill regimen to induce an abortion.

"We must hold these people accountable that are selling these dangerous drugs," said Johnson.

But pro-choice advocates argue data shows the drug is safe, and say this is a thinly-veiled overreach by right-wing groups.

"Using one court and one judge to dictate what the outcome of abortion care access in states all over the country is going to be," said former Democratic candidate for Texas governor Wendy Davis.

Speaking at a press conference late Wednesday, Davis called this case a "wake-up call".


"This case is indicative of how Texas, even after Roe v Wade, was overturned, an abortion banned in the state three times over. Remains the epicenter for the continued attacks on our reproductive health care and rights," said Davis. "I think we can expect the worst. And I think we need to be prepared for that."

Despite Kacsmaryk’s conservative reputation, Dr. Eddy Carder, a constitutional law professor at Prairie View A&M University, says based on Wednesday’s hearing, the judge’s ruling may be a compromise of sorts.

"I think it's a safe conclusion based upon the questions that the judge was asking—the inquiries that the judge was making of the parties and the information that he was gathering from both perspectives—those realities seem to indicate that he may be looking for some kind of mediating position," said Carder.

Regardless of the ruling, Carder says appeals are likely, and the case could end up at the U.S. Supreme Court. This case will play out alongside a separate case out of Galveston, where a man claims three women helped his ex-wife get an abortion pill, in violation of Texas’ abortion ban.

"That case combined with this case, I'm convinced, will have what we might call an ‘aggregate effect’ upon the position of the state of Texas with regard to abortion, as well as possibly even nationally with regard to the status of abortion," said Carder.

Even ahead of the ruling, this case and others like it are already having an impact—with Walgreens recently announcing its pulling the abortion pill from shelves in states where there’s legal action against it.