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Texas abortion law: Justice Department asks federal judge to suspend law enforcement

“The United States has the power to seek relief in this Court against the State of Texas, particularly in light of the procedural obstacles that Texas has erected to protect SB 8 from judicial review in lawsuits brought by people directly concerned, “argued government lawyers in briefs. late Tuesday. They said the law has “seriously and irreparably compromised the ability of women to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion statewide.”

The legal brief comes after the Biden administration filed a lawsuit against the state last week, saying the law was passed “in open defiance of the Constitution.” Now government lawyers are looking to stop the law while the court challenge unfolds.

The claim could quickly go to court – eventually ending up in the Supreme Court – and could determine whether state clinics can perform abortions again after six weeks as both sides present their legal arguments over the next few months. It comes as the Supreme Court is set to hear a case involving a 15-week ban in Mississippi that poses a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade in late fall or early winter.

“There is no doubt that SB 8 is contrary to decades of precedent forbidding states to ban abortions before fetal viability,” argued the Justice Department.

A 5-4 Supreme Court allowed Texas law to remain in effect earlier this month in a separate court challenge. By law, abortion is prohibited when a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is often before a woman knows she is pregnant. There is no exception for rape or incest, although there is an exemption for “medical emergencies”.

In passing the law, the Texas Legislature adopted a new legal strategy preventing Texan authorities from enforcing the law, instead allowing private citizens – anywhere in the country – to bring civil action against anyone who helps a woman. pregnant person seeking an abortion in violation of the law.

In its unsigned Sept. 1 order, the Supreme Court majority ruled that although the abortion providers behind the challenge raised “serious questions about the constitutionality of Texas law,” they said. had not encountered a burden that would allow the court to block it due to “complex” and “novel” procedural issues. The majority said its order was not based on any finding about the constitutionality of Texas law and “does not in any way limit other appropriate procedural challenges.”

Chief Justice John Roberts has joined the Liberal wing of the dissenting court. Judge Sonia Sotomayor called the court order “astonishing”.

“Presented with a request to ban a clearly unconstitutional law designed to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evading judicial scrutiny, a majority of judges chose to stick their heads in the sand “she said.

At a press conference last week announcing the trial, Attorney General Merrick Garland called the law a “ploy” to avoid judicial review.

“This kind of plan to overturn the Constitution of the United States is a plan that all Americans – whatever their politics or party – should fear,” he said.

Supporters of the right to abortion praised the government for its intervention.

“We are delighted that the federal government is acting with a sense of urgency to restore access to safe abortion care throughout Texas and prevent further violations of the constitutional rights of pregnant Texans,” said Stephanie Toti, lawyer. for the Lawyering Project, a non-profit legal organization. organization that represents abortion funds and practice support networks.

After the Supreme Court cleared the law for the law to come into force, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted that “starting today, every unborn child with a heartbeat will be protected from ravages of abortion ”.

Abbott was criticized when asked why he was pushing a law that would force a rape or incest victim to carry a pregnancy to term.

“It doesn’t require that at all, because obviously it gives a person at least six weeks to have an abortion,” Abbott replied. “Having said that, however,” he continued, “let’s say something very clear, rape is a crime, and Texas will work tirelessly to ensure that we take all rapists off the streets of Texas on the way out. aggressively, arresting and prosecuting them and getting them off the streets. “

New York Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez lambasted the governor in an interview with CNN.

“I’m sorry we have to air Biology 101 on national television, but in case no one has informed it before in their life, a six week pregnancy means two weeks late for your period. And two weeks late for your period. your period for anyone – anyone with a menstrual cycle – can happen if you’re stressed, if your diet changes, or for no real reason, so you don’t have six weeks, ”she said.