Justice Department asks judge to stop Texas from enforcing abortion law

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Justice Department asks judge to stop Texas from enforcing abortion law

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department asked a federal judge late Tuesday to issue an order that would prevent Texas from enacting a law that prohibits nearly all abortions, intensifying a fight between the Biden administration and the state’s Republican leaders. Is.

The Justice Department argued in its emergency motion that the state adopted legislation, known as Senate Bill 8, “to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights,” an argument the department made last week. Reiterating that when he sued Texas to restrict enforcement of the controversial. new law.

“It is constitutional law that ‘the state cannot prevent any woman from taking a final decision to terminate a pregnancy before viability’,” the department said in the lawsuit. “But that’s what Texas has done.”

As such, the department ordered the Western District of Texas Judge Robert L. Pittman to issue a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction that would prevent enforcement of the law.

“This relief is necessary to protect the constitutional rights of women in Texas and the sovereign interests of the United States of America,” the Justice Department said in its brief.

Representatives for Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The Justice Department’s filing is the latest defense in the Biden administration’s fight to block Texas from enacting a law that prohibits most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, often before many women realize they are pregnant. . At this stage of development there is no heart, only the developing cells have electrical activity. The law makes no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

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The motion comes two weeks after the Supreme Court refused to block the Texas law in a 5 to 4 decision. The majority insisted that it was not ruling on the constitutionality of the law and did not intend to limit “procedurally justified challenges”.

At the heart of the legal debate over the law is the mechanism that essentially deputizes private citizens, rather than the executive branch of the state, to enforce new sanctions by prosecuting anyone who performs abortion or “aids and abets” the procedure. does. Plaintiffs who have no relationship with the patient or clinic can sue and recover legal fees, plus $10,000 if they win.

In its court filing, the Justice Department called this mechanism “an unprecedented scheme that seeks to deny women and providers the ability to challenge SB8 in federal court.”

It said that in other cases where states enacted laws that curtailed reproductive rights in accordance with Texas law, courts had blocked those measures from taking effect.

The department said in its motion, ‘Texas’ “cannot tolerate an attempt to protect a clearly unconstitutional law from review.”

The Supreme Court did not rule on whether Senate Bill 8 was constitutional when it refused to block the law. The Justice Department has placed its constitutionality at the center of the trial, which could force the court to consider new factors and possibly come to a different decision if it does hear the case.

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Opponents and proponents of the Texas law consider it to be a drastic change in the nation’s fight over abortion, which has long rested on whether the Supreme Court will overturn Rowe v. Wade, a landmark 1973 decision that allowed women to constitutional right to process. .

Texas law essentially allows a state to ban abortion prior to the legal trial of that watershed case. If the law is not struck down by the courts, other Republican-led state legislatures may use it as a blueprint for sanctions of their own.

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