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Justice Department Sues to Block Texas Abortion Law

September 9, 2021 by Dan McCue
Attorney General Merrick Garland announces a lawsuit to block the enforcement of new Texas law that bans most abortions at the Justice Department in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday sued the state of Texas over a newly enacted law that prohibits nearly all abortions in the state.

The move came just days after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block the legislation, which bans all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy and makes no exceptions for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest.

It also allows anyone, regardless of whether they have any connection to an abortion, standing to sue those who perform or otherwise aid in the procedure, a novel legal concept.

In announcing the lawsuit, Attorney General Merrick Garland told reporters that the Justice Department has “a duty to defend the Constitution of the United States, and to uphold the rule of law.”

“Today, we fulfill that duty,” he said at a Justice Department news conference.

The argument the Justice Department raises in its complaint is equally direct.

It simply states that it is “settled constitutional law that ‘a state may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability.’”

“But Texas has done just that,” it says.

One of the fears surrounding the state law is that by granting standing to anyone who wants to sue over an abortion, it will expose abortion providers — and potentially the woman having the procedure — to a rash of lawsuits filed by private citizens and anti-abortion groups.

At his press conference Garland said the provision effectively created a new class of abortion “bounty hunters,” and even raised that possibility when it comes to federal employees exercising their official authorities when it comes to abortion services.

That, he said, makes the law invalid on its face because it violates both the supremacy clause of the Constitution, which gives precedence to federal law over state law, and the equal protection guarantees of the 14th Amendment.

“This kind of scheme to nullify the Constitution of the United States is one that all Americans, whatever their politics or party, should fear,” Garland said.

The department is seeking an injunction that would prohibit Texas from enforcing the law.

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