On Thursday, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Texas to challenge the state’s new law, SB 8, which prohibits abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, effectively banning all abortion in the state.
“The Act is clearly unconstitutional under longstanding Supreme Court precedent,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland in a statement. “The United States has the authority and responsibility to ensure that no state can deprive individuals of their constitutional rights through a legislative scheme specifically designed to prevent the vindication of those rights.”
The lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgment that the law is unconstitutional and ultimately aims to permanently prevent enforcement of the ban. The Department of Justice argued that the law violates the Constitution by infringing on an individual’s right to receive abortion care before viability, which is around 24 weeks of gestation.
The Justice Department also argued that the state’s method of enforcing the law, which empowers individuals to sue anyone who aids a person in getting an abortion and essentially deputizes “ordinary citizens to serve as bounty hunters,” is designed to make it more difficult to challenge the law in court and purposely evades judicial review.
Attorney General Garland warned that the Texas ban could become a blueprint for other states to impose similar infringements on constitutional rights, saying “this kind of scheme to nullify the Constitution of the United States is one that all Americans—whatever their politics or party—should fear.”
The lawsuit was filed in a federal district court in Austin but will likely make its way to the Supreme Court. Last week, the Supreme Court upheld the six-week ban in a 5-4 ruling but left the law open to future challenges.
Abortion providers and abortion rights groups have applauded the Department of Justice’s announcement as a necessary measure to ensure Americans’ constitutional right to abortion access.
“This is a needed announcement,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement. “Thank you, President Biden and the Department of Justice, for bringing the full might of the federal government to protect Texans from this dangerous and unjust law.”
“Right now patients across Texas are scared, they are confused, and they are being left with nowhere to turn to access safe, legal abortion,” she continued.
“Texans deserve the freedom and power to control their own bodies, their own decisions, and their own lives. Planned Parenthood will never abandon our patients, and we will do everything in our power to restore and protect access to abortion across Texas and the rest of the country. We hope this important next step by the Biden administration will help restore Texans’ access to the health care they need.”
Sources: CNN 9/9/21; Department of Justice 9/9/21; New York Times 9/9/21; Feminist Newswire 9/2/21; Planned Parenthood 9/9/21