The Biden administration has sued Texas over the state’s extreme abortion law that came into effect last week.
The lawsuit, shared by NPR, argues that Texas enacted the law "in open defiance of the Constitution."
"Last week, after the Supreme Court allowed Texas Senate Bill 8 to take effect, I said that the Justice Department was evaluating all options to protect the constitutional rights of women and other persons," US Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a press conference yesterday afternoon. "Today, after a careful assessment of the facts and the law, the Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against the State of Texas."
The document reads: “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 takes little imagination to discern Texas's goal — to make it too risky for an abortion clinic to operate in the State, thereby preventing women throughout Texas from exercising their constitutional rights."
The so-called “Texas Heartbeat Act” came into effect on September 1, banning doctors from performing or inducing an abortion after "cardiac activity" in an embryo can be detected via an ultrasound, which is around six weeks. Many people don't know they are pregnant at six weeks, as it is just two weeks after a missed period, so the new law is being characterized as a near-total abortion ban.
The new law does not include any exceptions for rape or incest, although there is an exemption for "medical emergencies." For the first time, the law also allows any private citizen to bring a civil suit against anyone who assists a pregnant person seeking an abortion. That’s not limited to healthcare providers but could technically include cab drivers or friends who may take someone to an abortion clinic.
The act has already caused a huge amount of criticism and resistance from activists, politicians, and medical professionals. Civil liberties groups and abortion rights advocates filed an emergency appeal to halt the law, although the US Supreme Court upheld the law in a late-night vote last Wednesday.
Following pressure from within his party, President Joe Biden issued a statement last week saying: “The Supreme Court’s ruling overnight is an unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights under Roe v. Wade, which has been the law of the land for almost fifty years.”
"The act is clearly unconstitutional under long-standing Supreme Court precedent," Garland said in yesterday's news conference. "Those precedents hold, in the words of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, that 'regardless of whether exceptions are made for particular circumstances, a state may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability.' "
The Justice Department is seeking a permanent injunction from a federal court in Texas, but it is likely the case will end up in the Supreme Court.