A federal judge has set a hearing for next week in a blockbuster medication abortion case in Texas but took a series of highly unusual steps to delay making the public aware that such a hearing was being scheduled, The Washington Post reported.
US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who is hearing the case, held a private call Friday with the case’s lawyers and scheduled the hearing for Wednesday, according to the Post. The call was not publicly noticed on the case’s docket, nor did the judge issue a public order announcing that Wednesday’s hearing had been scheduled. The case is not under seal.
In the case, anti-abortion doctors are asking the judge – an appointee of former President Donald Trump – to undo the federal government’s 2000 approval of pills used to terminate a pregnancy. Such a move could cut off access nationwide to the most common method of abortion.
Kacsmaryk told the lawyers on the call, according to the newspaper, that he would hold off on publicly announcing the Wednesday hearing until Tuesday evening, so as to limit disruptions and potential protests at the proceeding. He also asked that the attorneys on the call – which reportedly included the Justice Department’s lawyers who are defending the drug’s approval, lawyers for the anti-abortion activists who are challenging it, and lawyers for a company that distributes the drug and has intervened in the case – not to publicize the hearing plans before then.
The judge’s efforts to limit transparency around Wednesday’s hearing comes in a case that has major implications for access to abortion and is arguably the biggest legal battle over the procedure since the Supreme Court overturned nationwide abortion protections in a ruling last June.
Voicemails left by CNN on Sunday morning with the court’s clerk’s office and with Kacsmaryk’s chambers about the Post’s Saturday night report were not immediately returned.
The case is unfolding in Amarillo – a far-flung court division in Texas’ northern panhandle that is a several hours’ drive from the state’s biggest cities and has only limited direct flight routes. Federal judicial proceedings typically play out in public.