First shots fired against birth control

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Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump appointee to a federal court in Texas, is the first federal judge to embrace a challenge to the federal right to birth control after the Supreme Court’s June decision eliminating the right to an abortion.

Kacsmaryk’s judgment in Deanda v. Becerra, which was published last week, criticizes Title X, a government program that provides payments to healthcare providers so they can pay for patients’ voluntary and private family planning services. According to federal law, the Title X program must offer “programs for adolescents.”

A father who filed the lawsuit in Deanda claims he is “parenting each of his daughters in accordance with Christian teaching on matters of sexuality, which mandates unmarried children to practice abstinence and refrain from sexual activity until marriage.” He contends that the government has to stop giving funding to medical facilities that don’t demand that minors under the age of 18 “get parental consent” before obtaining Title X-funded treatment.

In part because the Deanda plaintiff’s legal argument “would impair the minor’s right to privacy,” which the Supreme Court has long considered to include a right to contraception, many courts have rejected similar claims to publicly financed family planning programs.

But Kacsmaryk differs from the majority of other judges. Trump elevated Kacsmaryk to the bench in 2019, and in his brief tenure there, he has demonstrated an uncommon readiness to creatively interpret the law to further right-wing interests.

As a result, the inevitable happened last Thursday. In his ruling, Kacsmaryk argued that “the Title X program undermines parents’ fundamental right to control how their children are raised.”

Legal mistakes abound in Kacsmaryk’s ruling, some of which are so glaring as to be picked up by a first-year law student. Additionally, it goes against a 42-year-old federal court consensus that parents do not have a constitutional right to criticize public programs that provide contraceptive care. Therefore, even in a federal bench predominated by Republican appointees, there is a chance that Kacsmaryk will be overturned on appeal.

However, Kacsmaryk’s opinion demonstrates that there are significant judicial figures keen to restrict access to contraception. Even if a higher court ultimately rejects Kacsmaryk’s judgment, the Title X program might be in disarray for months as a result.

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