WASHINGTON, DC — The Biden Justice Department sued the state of Texas on Thursday over its new six-week abortion ban.
“That act is clearly unconstitutional under long-standing Supreme Court precedent,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a news conference. “Those precedents hold, in the words of Planned Parenthood versus Casey, that ‘regardless of whether exceptions are made for particular circumstances, a state may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability.'”
He accused Texas Republicans of crafting a “statutory scheme” through the law “to nullify the Constitution of the United States.”
“It does not rely on the state’s executive branch to enforce the law, as is the norm in Texas and everywhere else. Rather, the snatcher deputizes all private citizens without any showing a personal connection or injury to serve as bounty hunters authorized to recover at least $10,000 per claim from individuals who facilitate a woman’s exercise of our constitutional rights,” he said.
As part of its lawsuit, Garland said the DOJ is seeking an immediate court order preventing the enforcement of SB8 in Texas.
DOJ has been exploring legal avenues for challenging the six-week abortion ban in Texas after the U.S. Supreme Court last week declined a request by clinics to block the law from going into effect.
The Texas law was designed specifically with the goal of making it more difficult for clinics to obtain federal court orders blocking enforcement of the law. Instead of creating criminal penalties for abortions conducted after a fetal heartbeat is detected, the Texas Legislature has tasked private citizens with enforcing the law by bringing private litigation against clinics — and anyone else who assists a woman in obtaining an abortion after six weeks.
Since the law went into effect, clinics across Texas have stopped offering abortions after six weeks, or have shuttered altogether.
In an unsigned opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court majority wrote that while the clinics had raised “serious questions regarding the constitutionality of the Texas law,” they had not met a burden that would allow the court to block it at this time due to “complex” and “novel” procedural questions.
Garland on Monday had pledged to protect abortion clinics in Texas by enforcing a federal law that prohibits making threats against patients seeking reproductive health services and obstructing clinic entrances.
“The department will provide support from federal law enforcement when an abortion clinic or reproductive health center is under attack,” Garland said. “We will not tolerate violence against those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services, physical obstruction or property damage in violation of the FACE Act.”