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Justice Department suing over Texas' restrictive abortion law

Merrick Garland
Posted at 11:22 AM, Sep 09, 2021

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Thursday that the Justice Department is filing a lawsuit over the state's restrictive abortion law.

In prepared remarks, Garland said that the decision to file suit was made "after careful assessment of the facts and the law."

The Texas law makes abortions illegal after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which occurs at about six weeks. At that point — just two weeks after a missed menstrual period — many women aren't even aware that they're pregnant.

The law also does not make exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

In addition, the law incentivizes private citizens to file suit against anyone who may have assisted in an illegal abortion — be it a doctor, a staff member at a clinic that provides abortions or a rideshare worker who drove a woman to the clinic. Those who successfully sue can be awarded $10,000 at the expense of the defendant.

"The act is clearly unconstitutional under long-stand Supreme Court precedent," Garland said.

The law went into effect on Sept. 1. Later that day, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision — with Chief Justice John Roberts and the court's three liberal judges in dissent — that the law could take effect while appeal courts consider its legality.

Garland on Thursday said that Texas "does not dispute that its statute violates the long-standing precedent" of Roe v. Wade. Rather, he claimed that by putting the onus of enforcement on private citizens rather than on the executive branch, lawmakers were attempting to prevent women from seeking Constitutionally-protected abortions by "thwarting judicial review for as long as possible."

Garland added that he feared other states could adopt similar tactics to subvert other Constitutional statutes and that should other states do so — no matter the politics — his department would file a similar lawsuit.
"The Department of Justice has a duty to uphold the Constitution and uphold the rule of law," Garland said.

Earlier this week Garland said in a statement that the Department of Justice would "protect" the rights of women seeking abortions across the country. His statement came days after President Joe Biden denounced the Supreme Court's decision and promised a "whole-of-government response" to fight the law.