In the Courts

Judge On Abortion Pills Case Said Court Received ‘Barrage Of Death Threats’

The Texas judge handling a highly anticipated case that could overturn the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of abortion pills said the court has received “a barrage of death threats,” according to a call transcript obtained by Talking Points Memo.

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk avoided publicizing a scheduled Wednesday hearing due to potential disruptions or protesters, people familiar with the case previously told the Washington Post. The transcript of a Friday call between Kacsmaryk and lawyers reveals the court’s safety factored into his decision: “So other elements of this case have brought a barrage of death threats and protestors and the rest,” Kacsmaryk said, according to the transcript obtained by TPM.

The plaintiffs in the case, Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA, argue that the FDA lacks authority to authorize abortion pills, which it says have a negative impact on the health of women and girls.

Kacsmaryk promised the hearing announcement would be publicly filed but said it would be “later in the day” or maybe “even after business hours,” asking attorneys to keep quiet until then. He stressed that this is “not a gag order” but a “request for courtesy.”

“Because of limited security resources and staffing, I will ask that the parties avoid further publicizing the date of the hearing,” he said. “This is not a gag order but just a request for courtesy given the death threats and harassing phone calls and voicemails that this division has received. We want a fluid hearing with all parties being heard. I think less advertisement of this hearing is better.”

He added that he did not want it to “disrupt” lawyers’ presentations to the court.

The hearing was publicly added to the docket on Monday after a group of media organizations, including the Washington Post, Texas Press Association and the News Media Coalition, filed an objection.

“Across the ideological spectrum, the public is intensely interested in this case,” the objection states. “The Court’s delayed docketing of notice of Wednesday’s hearing, and its request to the parties and their counsel not to disclose the hearing schedule publicly, harm everyone, including those who support the plaintiffs’ position and those who support the defendants’ position.”

“The Court cannot constitutionally close the courtroom indirectly when it cannot constitutionally close the courtroom directly,” it continued.

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