WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — The Justice Department is suing Texas over a law that restricts access to abortion. Attorney General Merrick Garland says the Texas law illegally interferes with federal interests.
Legal experts warn while the law may ultimately be found unconstitutional, the way it’s written means it’ll be an uphill legal battle.
In the lawsuit filed Thursday, Garland argues a “state may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability.”
The Texas law bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected. That could be as soon as six weeks into a pregnancy. But it’s enforced through civil action, awarding at least $10,000 to anyone who successfully sues someone who aided in an abortion.
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“The statute deputizes all private citizens without any showing of personal connection or injury to serve as bounty hunters,” Garland said.
“SB8 is one of the most harmful and one of the most egregious abortion bans we have ever seen,” said Jamarr Brown with the Texas Democratic Party.
Brown says the law has some doctors in the state too scared to operate.
“Providers having to pull back services or even close their own doors temporarily,” Brown said.
“This law is a peaceful, constitutional law that involves civil lawsuit,” said Chelsea Youmans with the anti-abortion group, Human Coalition Action.
The group says the law is valid.
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“They found a way to enforce the laws if the government officials refuse to; it can be done in the hands of private citizens,” said Youmans.
Garland says if the Texas law prevails, it could become a model for action in other states to pass similar laws undermining women’s rights.
Vice President Kamala Harris met with abortion and reproductive health providers Thursday afternoon from several states, including Texas, about the impact of Senate Bill 8. The White House says this is a critical priority for the Biden administration.