The Justice Department is suing the state of Texas to block implementation of the nation’s strictest abortion law, calling the measure “clearly unconstitutional under longstanding Supreme Court precedent.” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Austin, during a Thursday afternoon news conference.
Garland said the DOJ is asking the court to declare the Texas law unlawful, block its enforcement and to “protect the rights that Texas has violated.” Garland said the law is invalid under the Supremacy Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment, is preempted by federal law and violates the doctrine of intergovernmental immunity. The U.S. government has “an obligation to ensure that no state can deprive individuals of their constitutional rights,” he said.
The law, signed with great fanfare by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, makes abortion illegal after six weeks, before most women even realize they are pregnant, and makes no exception for cases of rape or incest. It also empowers private citizens to file civil lawsuits against anyone who helps a woman get an abortion after that six-week window. Those private citizens can receive a $10,000 award if their lawsuits are successful. Individuals can target abortion providers, clinic workers or those who help a woman pay for the procedure or drive her to a clinic.
The lawsuit states, “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.”
Garland noted that Texas doesn’t dispute that its statute violates Supreme Court precedent. Rather, the state crafted the measure “to thwart judicial review for as long as possible” by shifting enforcement from the state government to individuals.
“The act is clearly unconstitutional under long standing Supreme Court precedent,” he said. “This kind of scheme to nullify the Constitution of the United States is one that all Americans — whatever their politics or party — should fear.”