May 2023 Church & State Magazine - May 2023

Americans United Blasts Judicial Activism In Abortion Pill Ruling

 

The U.S. Supreme Court has for now blocked an April 7 ruling by an extremist federal judge in Texas to overturn a decades-old approval of mifepristone, an FDA-approved drug used in medication abortions. If it is upheld, the  Texas ruling could result in a nationwide ban on the drug. 

The ruling was issued by U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who has ties to Chrisitan Nationalist organizations. After his decision, it came to light that Kacsmaryk in 2017 drafted an article for the Texas Review of Law & Politics that attacked transgender rights and legal abortion.

Mifepristone: FDA approved and safe (Getty Images)

The Texas Tribune website reported that the article argued that physicians “cannot use their scalpels to make female what God created male” and “cannot use their pens to prescribe or dispense abortifacient drugs designed to kill unborn children.”

A few months after submitting the piece, Kacsmaryk, who was being vetted for the federal judgeship at the time, asked that his name be removed from it. The article was attributed to two of his colleagues at First Liberty, a Christian Nationalist legal group where Kacsmaryk worked.

Americans United President and CEO Rachel Laser strongly criticized Kacsmaryk’s legal ruling. 

“Judge Kacsmaryk’s unconscionable decision advances the agenda of religious extremists seeking to force all of us to live according to their religious beliefs,” Laser said in a media statement. “Kacsmaryk, whose anti-reproductive freedom views have been well documented, worked for the Christian Nationalist legal group First Liberty Institute prior to his lifetime judicial appointment. This opinion embodies the ideology he fought to impose on the country while at First Liberty. It advances the Christian Nationalist agenda to ban abortion, which would violate the separation of church and state by enshrining one narrow religious viewpoint into our law. If America is to make good on its promise of religious freedom, each of us must be free to make our own decisions about our own bodies based on our own beliefs.”

Laser added, “This case offers a snapshot of the machinations of the shadow network of well-funded and politically connected organizations working to undermine church-state separation and so many of the issues Americans care about that rely on it, including abortion rights and LGBTQ equality. The case features a who’s who of Christian Nationalist legal outfits, with the judge an alum of one of the most active. The case was brought by Alliance Defending Freedom, another Christian Nationalist legal group. A slew of anti-abortion organizations filed briefs supporting the ban, from Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council to Jay Sekulow’s American Center for Law and Justice to Mike Pence’s Advancing American Freedom.

“These shadow network organizations have an overfunded war chest and outsized political influence, but they don’t represent the views of the majority of Americans,” she concluded. “Their goal is to impose their extremist beliefs on us all, and that’s precisely why we must separate church and state. We need a national recommitment to the separation of church and state. It’s the shield that protects freedom without favor and equality without exception for all of us.”

On April 21, the Supreme Court put Kacsmaryk’s ruling was on hold while the case is considered by a federal appeals court.  Americans United joined more than 200 reproductive rights, civil rights, religious and other social justice organizations to urge the high court to protect access to mifepristone while the matter proceeds.

In a friend-of-the-court brief filed April 14, Americans United and allied groups stressed that more than 20 years of evidence supports the FDA’s conclusion that medication abortion with mifepristone is safe and effective. The groups assert that Kacsmaryk’s unprecedented decision to ban mifepristone imperils the health and safety of millions of people.

Other organizations joining the brief include the American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Reproductive Rights, Lambda Legal, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Council of Jewish Women, National Education Association, National Women’s Law Center, People For the American Way and Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

The case is Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. USDA.

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