For Texas Judge in Abortion Case, a Life Shaped by Conservative Causes

Patients could have a harder time getting abortions if a Texas case ruling is finalized.

For Texas Judge in Abortion Case, a Life Shaped by Conservative Causes

The couple, Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk (left) and Shelly Kacsmaryk (right), were devastated by the stillbirth of their first daughter, Tyndale.

In 2006, Judge Kacsmaryk was a young lawyer with the prestigious Texas law firm Baker Botts. This experience had a profound impact on him. He was involved with and served on the board for a Texas Christian group that offers housing and adoption services as an alternative to aborting unplanned pregnancies.

Sherri Statler is the president and CEO of Christian Homes & Family Services, Abilene. She said that Matthew and Shelly’s first child, who was stillborn, contributed to Matthew's interest in supporting women in many ways, especially when they were pregnant. They often feel pressured to have an abortion before they learn that there are organizations who will support them during their pregnancy.

Kacsmaryk issued a preliminary decision on Friday night invalidating the Food and Drug Administration approval of an abortion drug widely available in Amarillo. This is one of the most watched court cases since Supreme Court overturned right to abortion. A coalition of antiabortion groups and physicians have sued the Food and Drug Administration to invalidate the agency's approval for the drug mifepristone.

His ruling was in conflict with another federal court's, creating a legal standoff which is likely to escalate up to the Supreme Court.

The case has brought Judge Kacsmaryk to the forefront. A Trump appointee, his conservative views led to accusations that antiabortion groups judge shopped for a jurist who would limit access to medication-abortion. Lawyers for plaintiffs deny these allegations. After the judge asked the lawyers to not publicize the hearing, the focus intensified. He cited death threat, harassing phone calls and concerns about a "circus-like atmosphere."

After years of litigation at First Liberty Institute, a firm that advocates for religious freedom and is conservative in its outlook, Judge Kacsmaryk was elevated to the federal bench. He found, in the fall of last year, that the guidelines set forth by Biden's administration for protecting L.G.B.T.Q. Workers went too far. He recently ruled that a federal initiative to give teenagers confidential contraception was in violation of the U.S. Constitution as well as state law.

Activists demonstrated in front the federal court in Amarillo to express their fear that this case may prove to be another devastating blow for women who seek abortions. They fear the judge may bring his own personal opinions to the case and cite his past rulings on other hot-button topics.

Rachel O'Leary Carmona is the executive director for the Women's March advocacy group. She is from Amarillo, and she has been organizing protests in response to the case.

Judge Kacsmaryk declined to comment on this article. However, several friends and colleagues who have known him for many years described him as a skilled courtroom litigator that was shaped by his faith and religious upbringing. They denied the notion that a judge could let his personal beliefs influence a ruling.

Hiram Sasser is the executive general counsel of First Liberty Institute.

Judge Kacsmaryk was born in Florida in 1977 and moved to Texas as a child. Ephraim Wernick said that his father was in the defense industry and he dreamed of working for C.I.A. as a child.

In an email Mr. Wernick stated that he believed the media's coverage of Judge Kacsmaryk portrayed him unfairly as an ideological.

Matt understands that a judge's role is properly limited in our constitution,' said he. I am confident that the decisions Matt makes will be based on a careful study of facts, law and precedent.

Judge Kacsmaryk graduated from Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas, and then went to the University of Texas Law School at Austin.

After graduating from Baker Botts in 2003, he stayed there for five years. He then became a federal prosecution and joined First Liberty Institute in 2014.

Mike Berry, vice president for external affairs at First Liberty Institute, has said that he frequently seeks the advice of Judge Kacsmaryk.

Berry stated that 'He had been in many courtroom battles and was a serious litigator'. He knew what he was doing. I knew that he was instantly credible.

Mr. Berry remembered a conversation he had with Judge Kacsmaryk in which they both agreed that great lawyers can separate their personal feelings from the best interests of their clients. The conversation turned to judges.

Berry stated that a good judge sometimes reaches decisions or conclusions they wouldn't personally want, but are required by law. We both think that's the case.

Even though Judge Kacsmaryk’s family, including his parents did not respond to comments, records and conversations with friends indicate that his conservative views remain a significant part of his identity in both his professional and private life. In his federal court profile, he lists that he is a member of both the Federalist Society and Philadelphia Society.

From 2016 until he was appointed a judge, he served on the board for Ms. Statler’s organization Christian Homes & Family Services. Statler stated that he and his wife continue to be donors.

She said that his experience with her group is deep. She said that Judge Kacsmaryk’s sister had used Christian Homes & Family Services to place her son up for adoption years ago. Statler declined to comment for privacy purposes, and Judge Kacsmaryk’s sister Jennifer Griffith did not respond when The New York Times asked for comments.

Ms. Griffith said in an interview with The Washington Post published earlier this year, that her brother came to her support when she was pregnant at 17 and fled to Christian Homes. She said that he held her child in his arms and that, together with the experience of leaving her infant with adoptive families, cemented her brother's conviction that every pregnancy is precious.

The Post quoted Ms. Griffith as saying, 'He is very passionate about his belief that you cannot preach pro-life while doing nothing.

Ms. Statler also agreed with Judge Kacsmaryk. She told The Times that she knew Kacsmaryk had a special place in his heart for pregnant women.