Two Judges Have Opposing Rulings, and Backgrounds, on Abortion Rights

Health & Gender Brief #161 | By: Geoffrey Small | May 12, 2023
Header photo taken from:

Last month
two federal judges issued contradictory rulings on the abortion medication mifepristone, the most commonly used procedure in the United States. In Texas, U.S. Federal District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled that a 20-year old authorization by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) should be put on hold until the federal government appeals a lawsuit against the medication. Meanwhile, in Spokane, Washington, U.S. District Judge Thomas Rice ruled against federal officials hindering access to the medication in 17 states where Democratic Attorney Generals sued to preserve access. Exploring the two judges opposing views through their cultural backgrounds, education, and career paths can help identify a systemic pattern of political and religious influence in the effort to take away reproductive rights from women.

Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk

Matthew Kacsmaryk

Photo taken by Business Insider

Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk was born in Gainesville Florida to a family who had antiabortion beliefs. He graduated from a Christian University in Texas and received his law degree in the same state. Kacsmaryk became a member of the Federalist Society in 2012, which is a conservative legal organization that promotes a strict and libertarian-based interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. After a brief five-year period as an Assistant District Attorney in the State of Texas, he began working for the First Liberty Institute in 2014, where LGBTQ advocacy groups stated his writings referred to homosexuality and transgender identities as mental health issues. He also represented clients that were sued for discrimination against the LGBTQ community. In 2017,  he was nominated by the Trump administration to serve as a federal judge and was eventually appointed by the Senate in 2019.

Judge Thomas Rice

Thomas Owen Rice

Photo taken by The Spokesman-Review

Judge Thomas Rice was born in Spokane, Washington and spent his whole career working for the Federal Government. He began his career in the U.S. Department of Justice in 1986, after receiving his law degree at Gonzaga University. He worked for 26 years as an Assistant District Attorney in Washington, until he was nominated by the Obama administration to serve as a Federal Judge in 2011 and later appointed by the Senate in 2012. He was also appointed as a Chief Judge for his district. 

On April 21st, the Supreme Court blocked Kacsmaryk’s decision to ban mifepristone until arguments are heard during the appeal process. The religious and cultural background of Kacsmaryk may be a clear indicator of his antiabortion influence in the federal court system. However, the stark contrast in career paths of these two federal district judges highlights the need for placing a higher standard on vetting potential candidates. It is clear that Kacsmaryk’s background in working for the federal government pales in comparison to Rice. Organizations like the Federalist Society and Liberty Institute may serve as an incubator for federal justices that oppose reproductive rights. The fact that Rice spent most of his career working for the federal justice system may have served as a buffer against influence from special interest groups with certain political and religious agendas. The Hatch Act mandated that federal employees are not allowed to engage in partisan political organizations, until it was amended in 1993 to allow partisan participation during off-duty hours. 

Organizations like Lambda Legal and Alliance For Justice are sounding the alarm over appointed federal judges whose legal background and influence from special interest groups harm reproductive rights. That’s why it is important to donate to these organizations, in order to educate the public and the United States Senate on how our justice system is being influenced to carry out an antiabortion agenda.

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