Justice Department vows to protect women seeking abortions in Texas

Attorney General Merrick Garland is shown at the headquarters of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in Washington, D.C., on July 22. File Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/UPI/Pool

Sept. 6 (UPI) — The Justice Department vowed Monday to protect the safety of women seeking access to reproductive health care in Texas as it explores “all options” to challenge the state’s strict new abortion law.

In an issued statement, Attorney General Merrick Garland said he will tap “support from federal law enforcement” if an “abortion clinic or reproductive health center is under attack.”

Citing authority under the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, or FACE Act, Garland said the federal government will not tolerate any “threat of force and physical obstruction that injures, intimidates, or interferes with a person seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services.”

He said the Justice Department will “protect the constitutional rights of women and other persons, including access to an abortion” as the Biden administration “urgently explores all options” to challenge the Texas law, known as Senate Bill 8.

SB8, led by Republicans and signed by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in May, outlaws abortions when a heartbeat is detectable, which is about six weeks into a pregnancy. It will deny the procedure to about 85% of patients who seek it in the state.

The ban is enforced by members of the public who are able to sue anyone who provides or is involved in aiding and performing abortions barred by SB8, including anyone who drives a patient to the procedure.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court voted against an emergency petition from abortion providers and advocates to block the law.

President Joe Biden vowed last week to fight the measure, calling the court’s decision an “unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights.”

He directed White House lawyers to launch “a whole-of-government effort to respond to this decision,” including asking the Justice Department to determine what steps the federal government can take to “ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions” and to counter “Texas’ bizarre scheme of outsourced enforcement to private parties.”


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