The Mercury News

Judge in abortion pill case set hearing but sought to delay telling the public

- By Katie Benner and Pam Belluck

The federal judge in a closely watched lawsuit that seeks to overturn federal approval of a widely used abortion pill has scheduled the first hearing in the case for this week, but he planned to delay making the public aware of it, according to people familiar with the case.

Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk, of the Northern District in Texas, told lawyers in the case Friday that he was scheduling the hearing for Wednesday morning. However, he asked them not to disclose that informatio­n and said he would not enter it into the public court record until late Tuesday evening.

One person familiar with the case, which is being heard in federal court in Amarillo, Texas, said such steps were “very irregular,” especially for a case of intense public interest.

Kacsmaryk, a Trump appointee who has written critically about Roe v. Wade and previously worked for a Christian conservati­ve legal organizati­on, told lawyers in a conference call Friday that he did not want the March 15 hearing to be “disrupted,” and that he wanted all parties involved to share their points in an orderly fashion, according to people familiar with the discussion.

The judge also said that court staff had faced security issues, including death threats, and that the measure was intended to keep the court proceeding­s safe.

The lawsuit, filed in November against the Food and Drug Administra­tion by a coalition of anti-abortion groups and doctors, seeks to end more than 20 years of legal use of medication­s for abortion. The plaintiffs, led by the Alliance for Hippocrati­c Medicine, an organizati­on that lists five anti-abortion groups as its members, have asked the judge to issue a preliminar­y injunction ordering the FDA to withdraw its long-standing approval of mifepristo­ne, the first pill in the two-drug medication abortion regimen.

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