Debra Sweet holds up a sign as she joins the people who gathered in downtown Brooklyn, New York City for a reproductive rights rally at Brooklyn Borough Hall on September 1, 2021.
Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images
The Justice Department on Thursday sued Texas over its restrictive new abortion law, saying the state legislature enacted the law “in open defiance of the constitution.”
The lawsuit comes after the Supreme Court, which was made up of 6-3 Conservative judges, refused last week to block the controversial abortion law, which bans almost all abortions after just six weeks of pregnancy.
President Joe Biden had blown the High Court judgment overnight, saying it “insulted the rule of law.” Attorney General Merrick Garland said at the time that the Justice Department was examining “all options to protect women’s constitutional rights, including access to an abortion”.
Garland announced the civil lawsuit against Texas during a press conference at 3 p.m. ET.
“The law is clearly unconstitutional,” said Garland.
The 30-page lawsuit against the Lone Star State, filed in federal court in Austin, also accuses Texas of having “an unprecedented system” in place to protect the abortion law from legal challenge by empowering individuals to be “bounty hunters.” to serve “against those who seeks or assists in obtaining abortions.
The government is calling on the court to invalidate, null and void the Abortion Act and prevent Texas from enforcing it in any way.
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“This type of plan to repeal the United States Constitution is one that all Americans, regardless of politics or party, should fear,” Garland said Thursday. “If it prevails, it can become a model for action in other areas, by other states, and in relation to other constitutional rights and jurisdiction.”
“You don’t have to think long to see the damage our society would be done if states were allowed to pass laws that empower individuals to violate the constitutionally protected rights of others,” said the US Attorney General.
The law, signed by Republican Governor Greg Abbott in May, prohibits abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, which usually occurs around the sixth week of pregnancy. At this point, many women do not yet know that they have become pregnant.
The law, SB 8, contains an exception for medical emergencies, but not for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest. Abbott defended the law this week, saying its goal was “to eradicate rape so that no woman, no one is rape”.
Attorney General Merrick Garland announces a lawsuit to block enforcement of the new Texas law banning most abortions at the Justice Department in Washington on Thursday, September 9, 2021.
J. Scott Applewhite | AP
Rather than hiring officials or law enforcement agencies to enforce the ban, the law empowers individuals to file civil claims against abortion providers or anyone who “helps or assists” with an abortion after the six-week period expires. These lawsuits can earn a minimum of $ 10,000 in “legal damages” per abortion.
Critics say these rules effectively create a bounty system to circumvent abortion rights introduced in the groundbreaking Roe v. Wade of the Supreme Court of 1973.
But the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, denied an urgency motion by abortion law advocates for an injunction to stop the abortion law coming into effect on September 1st.
The majority, which included all three judges appointed by former President Donald Trump, wrote in a one-paragraph judgment that the petitioners “did not bear their burden” on complex procedural issues raised in the case.
However, they noted that “this order is not based on any conclusion about the constitutionality of Texas law”.
Judge Sonia Sotomayor, however, wrote that Texas had “effectively represented the citizens of the state as bounty hunters and offered them cash prizes for the civil prosecution of their neighbors’ medical practices.”
Planned Parenthood, one of the groups petitioning the Supreme Court to block SB 8, applauded the Biden government for filing the civil lawsuit.
“Right now, patients across Texas are scared, confused, and unable to turn to safe, legal abortion,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, CEO of Planned Parenthood, in a statement.
“We hope that this important next step by the Biden administration will help restore Texans’ access to the health care they need,” said Johnson.
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