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Justice Department calls for emergency order to block Texas abortion law

The Justice Department filed an emergency order Tuesday night, calling for a temporary stop to new Texas law that bans abortions beyond six weeks. The department said in its file that the new law, also known as SB 8, prevents “women from exercising their constitutional rights.”

“The United States seeks a temporary injunction or a preliminary injunction directing the application of SB 8,” the department said. “This relief is necessary to protect the constitutional rights of women in Texas and the sovereign interest of the United States in ensuring that their states live up to the terms of the National Covenant. It is also necessary to protect federal agencies, employees and contractors whose actions SB 8 claims to prohibit. “

The department claims the law, which went into effect two weeks ago, violates the 14th Amendment.

“It is well established that the Fourteenth Amendment prevents states from prohibiting abortion before a fetus is viable,” the file says. “Because SB 8 has this effect, it is clearly unconstitutional under binding precedent.”

The ministry also alleged that the law violates the supremacy clause, which places federal law above state law in various circumstances, and “irreparably injures” the federal government because it is designed to avoid being challenged in court.

“The law is detrimental to the United States’ interest in ensuring that states do not shirk their constitutional obligations and then attempt to isolate their actions from judicial review, as well as their interests in protect the constitutional rights of the women in their care and custody, “the record says.” Allowing states to circumvent the Federal Constitution in this manner would offend the fundamental federal nature of the Union. Thus, the unconstitutionality of SB 8 is sufficient in itself to establish irreparable harm.

The Justice Department also argued that the law prompts many people to request abortions outside of Texas, “overcrowding out-of-state clinics and creating backlogs for residents of other states seeking care.”

In addition to banning abortion as early as six weeks pregnant – before most women know they are pregnant – the measure allows individuals to bring civil suits against anyone who performs an abortion after six weeks or helps a woman access the procedure, such as a friend who leads a woman to have an abortion, or clinic staff. Those found in violation of the law are required to pay at least $ 10,000 to the person who successfully sued.

The ministry said on Tuesday that if a restraining order is granted, not only should the law not be enforced while it is in place, but those attempting to enforce SB 8 should be informed that they do not ‘have more authority than the law has given them while it is in dispute.

Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed the measure enacted in May, Texas joining a dozen other states that have passed laws banning early-stage abortions. Known as “heartbeat bills,” they seek to ban procedures after a fetal heartbeat is first detected.

Attorney General Merrick Garland released a statement after the Texas abortion ban came into effect earlier this month on a promise that the Justice Department “would continue to protect” the safety of Texas women seeking abortions.

President Biden called the law “extreme” in a statement and said it “flagrantly violates constitutional law established by Roe v. Wade and maintained as precedent for nearly half a century.”

Meanwhile, in Mississippi, abortion clinics Monday asked the Supreme Court to block the state’s 15-week abortion ban, saying the law would upend 50 years of precedent and open the door for other states to outright ban abortion . The court will hear the successful Mississippi abortion law dispute during its next term, which begins in October.

There will be a hearing on the request on October 1.

Robert Legare contributed reporting.