Abortion: Justice Department sues Texas over six-week abortion ban


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Announcing the lawsuit at a news conference in Washington, Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Texas law’s “unprecedented” design seeks “to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights by thwarting judicial review for as long as possible.”

“The act is clearly unconstitutional under longstanding Supreme Court precedent” Garland said.

The Texas law was designed specifically with the goal of making it more difficult for clinics to obtain federal court orders blocking enforcement of the law. Instead of creating criminal penalties for abortions conducted after a fetal heartbeat is detected, the Texas Legislature has tasked private citizens with enforcing the law by bringing private litigation against clinics — and anyone else who assists a woman in obtaining an abortion after six weeks.

Since the law went into effect, clinics across Texas have stopped offering abortions after six weeks, or have shuttered altogether.

The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Austin, alleged that the Texas law is unconstitutional because it conflicts with “the statutory and constitutional responsibilities of the federal government.”

“The United States has the authority and responsibility to ensure that Texas cannot evade its obligations under the Constitution and deprive individuals of their constitutional rights by adopting a statutory scheme designed specifically to evade traditional mechanisms of federal judicial review,” the lawsuit states.

The Justice Department is seeking a declaratory judgment declaring the Texas abortion ban invalid, as well as a “preliminary and permanent injunction against “the State of Texas” — including all of its officers, employees, and agents, including private parties who would enforce the abortion ban.

The US Supreme Court last week declined a request by clinics to block the law from going into effect.

In an unsigned order, the court’s majority wrote that while the clinics had raised “serious questions regarding the constitutionality of the Texas law,” they had not met a burden that would allow the court to block it at this time due to “complex” and “novel” procedural questions.

Garland on Monday had pledged to protect abortion clinics in Texas by enforcing a federal law that prohibits making threats against patients seeking reproductive health services and obstructing clinic entrances.
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“The department will provide support from federal law enforcement when an abortion clinic or reproductive health center is under attack,” Garland said. “We will not tolerate violence against those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services, physical obstruction or property damage in violation of the FACE Act.”

This story has been updated with Garland’s announcement and additional details.

CNN’s Shawna Mizelle and Christina Carrega contributed to this report.

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