Justice Dept. files emergency motion seeking to halt Texas’ abortion ban

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced a lawsuit last week against Texas' law that bans most abortions in the state. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI

Sept. 15 (UPI) — The Justice Department late Tuesday asked a federal judge to block, at least temporarily, Texas’ controversial near total abortion ban, arguing it prevents women from exercising their constitutional rights.

The department in an emergency motion filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division, asked for a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction against Senate Bill 8, saying the relief is “necessary to protect the constitutional rights of women in Texas and the sovereign interest to protect federal agencies, employees and contractors whose lawful actions S.B.8 purports to prohibit.”

The motion was filed as the Biden administration sues Texas over its law that bans all abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant, without exceptions for pregnancies the result of rape or incest.

The law removes the state from enforcing the ban by shifting that responsibility to citizens who can sue anyone who performs or assists with performing the medical procedure.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the lawsuit last week against Texas, calling the prohibition “unconstitutional” and saying that it includes an “unprecedented scheme” to shield it from litigation.

The Justice Department on Tuesday accused Texas of devising this scheme in order to prevent courts from enjoining the law as they have concerning other similar bans that other states have sought to enforce.

“This attempt to shield a plainly unconstitutional law from review cannot stand,” the Justice Department wrote in its motion. “Although S.B.8 was designed to create jurisdictional obstacles to the ability of women and providers to sue to protect their rights, those obstacles do not impede the relief sought through this suit — an action brought by the United States against Texas itself.”

The Justice Department said it has not only the authority but responsibility to ensure Texas cannot “insulate itself from judicial review for its constitutional violations.”

Planned Parenthood said in a statement that they “welcome” the Justice Department’s filing “as a first step in restoring abortion access in Texas.”

Neither Texas Gov. Greg Abbott nor Attorney General Kevin Paxton have yet to comment on the Tuesday filing.

The law went into effect early this month as the Supreme Court voted 5-4 against an emergency application filed by abortion providers in the state to block it from going active.

The majority wrote in its opinion that the complaint raised “serious questions” about the law’s constitutionality but that they did not rule on whether it violated the Constitution.

Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican and a proponent of the law, signed the legislation in May, saying it will protect the right to life.

“Our creator endowed us with the right to life, and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion,” he said during the signing ceremony. “In Texas, we work to save those lives and that’s exactly what the Texas Legislature did this session.”


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