Justice Department files suit against Texas over SB8 abortion law

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced the Justice Department has filed suit against Texas over SB8, the abortion law that went into effect on Sept. 1.

The Justice Department is arguing that it was enacted “in open defiance of the Constitution.”

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in federal court in Texas, asks a federal judge to declare that the law is invalid, “to enjoin its enforcement, and to protect the rights that Texas has violated.”

The Texas Tribune reported the law is one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion laws — which bans abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy -- before some women know they’re pregnant. The U.S. Supreme Court did not take action on an emergency appeal by Texas abortion providers.

Texas press secretary Renae Eze issued this statement:

“The most precious freedom is life itself. Texas passed a law that ensures that the life of every child with a heartbeat will be spared from the ravages of abortion. Unfortunately, President Biden and his administration are more interested in changing the national narrative from their disastrous Afghanistan evacuation and reckless open border policies instead of protecting the innocent unborn. We are confident that the courts will uphold and protect that right to life.”

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Courts have blocked other states from imposing similar restrictions, but Texas’ law differs significantly because it leaves enforcement to private citizens through civil lawsuits instead of criminal prosecutors, the Associated Press reported.

The law prohibits abortions whenever an ultrasound can detect what lawmakers defined as a fetal “heartbeat,” though medical and legal experts say this term is misleading because embryos don’t possess a heart at that developmental stage.

Legal experts warn that while the law may ultimately be found unconstitutional, the way it’s written means it’ll be an uphill legal battle, the Associated Press reported.

Pressure had been mounting on the Justice Department not only from the White House – President Joe Biden has said the law is “almost un-American” – but also from Democrats in Congress, who wanted Attorney General Merrick Garland to take action. Earlier this week, Garland vowed the Justice Department would step in to enforce a federal law known as the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.

That law, commonly known as the FACE Act, normally prohibits physically obstructing access to abortion clinics by blocking entrances or threatening to use force to intimidate or interfere with someone. It also prohibits damaging property at abortion clinics and other reproductive health centers.


About the Authors:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, social media news and local crime.