Update: A full interview with Women’s March Executive Director Rachel O’Leary Carmona can be viewed below.
AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – As lawyers, press, and members of the public gather on Wednesday for an injunction hearing in Amarillo Federal Court surrounding a lawsuit aimed at overturning the Food and Drug Administration’s more than 2-decade-old approval of the abortion pill Mifepristone, organizers from Women’s March and a national gender justice organization announced a number of protest demonstrations planned for the day.
According to documents filed Monday afternoon, Matthew J. Kacsmaryk, the judge for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas Amarillo Division, will hear oral arguments on the plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction at 9 a.m. on Wednesday in Amarillo Federal Court.
As noted in previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, a nonprofit organization located in Amarillo, filed a lawsuit in Amarillo Federal Court with a group of doctors and other associations against the FDA surrounding the use of Mifepristone, or Mifeprex, and Misoprostol for chemical abortions. Wednesday is expected to be the first hearing in the case, during which Kacsmaryk will hear the respective arguments of each of the involved parties.
While the case has been closely tracked by groups supporting either side of the suit and developments have already prompted protest demonstrations in the Amarillo area, organizers from both Women’s March and UltraViolet, a national gender justice organization, said that protests on Wednesday will not only focus on the suit’s subject matter but on the hearing itself.
The hearing only appeared on the public online docket on Monday, following an objection filed by media outlets including NBCUniversal News Group, to which KAMR Local 4 News is affiliated. The objection was related to an article in the Washington Post from Sunday that alleged Kacsmaryk said during a conference call that the hearing would not be placed on the docket until late Tuesday “to try to minimize disruptions and possible protests.” The media objection argued that delaying the notice is unconstitutional, limiting members of the public and the press from accessing the proceedings.
Kacsmaryk’s reported comments and the hearing’s docket delay have become one of the major driving forces for the Women’s March and UltraViolet Wednesday protests, according to those groups.
Women’s March announced that at 9 a.m. on Wednesday it will hold a “Kangaroo Court” protest outside the Amarillo Federal Courthouse in an effort to decry “Kacsmaryk’s efforts to obscure hearings in a major case,” during which protesters are planned to be wearing kangaroo and judge costumes “to expose the case’s lack of merit and Judge Kacsmaryk’s loyalties to religious extremist politicians.”
Later on Wednesday, at around 5 p.m., Women’s March said that it will hold another protest near the Potter County Courthouse during which protesters will wear clown costumes. The theme comes, said organizers, after Kacsmaryk requested that lawyers not tweet about the hearing so that the court could avoid “any unnecessary circus-like atmosphere of what should be more of an appellate-style proceeding.”
“Judge Kacsmaryk must not be allowed to steal our rights from the shadows,” said Rachel Carmona, Executive Director of Women’s March, in the protest announcement, “Public access to federal court proceedings is a key principle of the American judiciary system. That is why it is deeply disturbing that this Trump-appointed, politician-in-a-robe judge is already breaking precedent and trying to hide this case from public view. Matthew Kacsmaryk’s already shady actions in this crucial case hint at a potentially catastrophic outcome for our rights and our democracy. We will not allow it. We will not let our rights be taken away in secret.”
In a similar vein, UltraViolet is expected to have a billboard truck travel in a loop through downtown Amarillo on Wednesday in an effort to highlight what its co-founder and executive director, Shaunna Thomas, said was an attempt to keep the case out of the public eye in “a new low.”
“Let’s be clear, any action Judge Kacsmaryk takes to undermine the availability of Mifepristone will be illegitimate – and this latest news just helps prove it,” said Thomas, “If Kacsmaryk thinks that attempting to keep these proceedings secret will save him from public outrage and accountability, he is sadly mistaken. You can’t hide from us.”
As previously noted on MyHighPlains.com, the hearing is expected to start on Wednesday morning and allow two hours for each side to argue their case. Kacsmaryk ruled in late February that this hearing and the trial would be separate, noting that it is “generally inappropriate for a federal court at the preliminary injunction stage to give a final judgment on the merits” of a case.
UPDATE: (March 15, 11:30 a.m.)
MyHighPlains.com Staff spoke with Rachel O’Leary Carmona, Women’s March Executive Director, regarding Wednesday’s court hearing and related protests. The full interview and its transcript can be viewed below.
Why are you out here today?
We’re out here today, you know, kind of bearing witness and making sure that folks have an opportunity to make their voice heard while Matthew Kacsmaryk is hearing the case around medication abortion, of Mifepristone specifically, that’s being brought against the FDA.
What could the consequences of this case be?
The consequences of this case would, could be deadly. I mean, the process by which the case is being heard are highly irregular. Some experts are calling it unconstitutional, the way in which this judge tried to keep hearing secret and keep the public out and really have a closed judiciary, which is you know, really at odds with the fundamental tenets of our democracy of a government by, for, and of the people. And what would happen if, if Mifepristone gets taken off, taken off the shelves, is that not just would folks who need abortion care have a harder time finding that, but also it would let people know that we can tamper with the FDA for political reasons and to advance the political agenda. And so if Mifepristone gets taken off the shelves, where does that stop? With PrEP, with birth control, with Plan B? So what we’re talking about right now is an attack on women, but it’s also attacking our federal government and on our democracy.
Are you concerned with the somewhat secretive nature of how this trial kind of came about today or this hearing?
We are very concerned with the very, with the secretive nature of the trial, and as the leak documents came out from the, from the hearing last week, we realize exactly how premeditated the secrecy has been. And you know, when we’re talking about a place or, or a process that is meant to shut out protestors, it’s meant to make it harder for the press – was literally scheduled so that it would be harder for folks to get into Amarillo, which of course, as Amarillo as we know, is not easy to get into from other places. You know, the, the ways in which this whole process has been engineered is very troubling. A month ago, we had 350 people here to protest about this. Today we have 10. The reason being that this judge put obstacles in front of us to get people here, and that in and of itself is anti-democratic and anti-constitutional.
And if this case, let’s say he decides to ban this drug, what’s next for your group?
I mean, what’s next for the group is that there will be snap actions all across the country if Matthew Kacsmaryk an injunction. And so that won’t just be for our group, that will be for groups all across the country. So you’ll see the groups that were here with us last month, but you’ll also see groups across the spectrum for whom this is a really important issue because this is an issue of a compromised judiciary. This is an issue of attacks on our public health system. It’s an attack on our federal government. It’s an attack on democracy. And so you won’t just see women’s groups, you won’t just see reproductive rights groups. You won’t just see, you know, groups that are interested in healthcare. You will see a broad spectrum of folks taking to the streets and making sure that we are fighting, you know, to the last second to make sure that none, no more of our rights are rolled back.
And do you have faith that the judicial branch within this case can make a fair judgment based on constitutionality?
I think Matthew Kacsmaryk’s connections to the plaintiffs, I think his career as a lifelong anti-abortion crusader. I think his opinions, his legal opinions before he was on the bench and the opinions that he has issued since the bench are disqualifying. I think he should have recused himself. And I think that, I think that he is either corrupt or not ready for prime time, and either way, he should not be deciding this case, which honestly would be thrown out of any legitimate court.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Anybody that wants to figure out how to get involved in Amarillo or anywhere outside of Amarillo should go to, wewontgoback.com to figure out how to do so.