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DOJ Sues Texas Over ‘Unconstitutional’ Abortion Law

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Merrick Garland

On Thursday, the US Justice Department sued the state of Texas over its new six-week abortion ban, saying the state law is unconstitutional. The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Austin, alleged that the Texas law is unconstitutional because it conflicts with “the statutory and constitutional responsibilities of the federal government.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a news conference in Washington that the Texas law’s “unprecedented” design seeks “to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights by thwarting judicial review for as long as possible.”

“The act is clearly unconstitutional under longstanding Supreme Court precedent,” Garland said.

The Texas law was designed specifically with the goal of making it more difficult for clinics to obtain federal court orders blocking enforcement of the law. Instead of creating criminal penalties for abortions conducted after a fetal heartbeat is detected, the Texas Legislature has tasked private citizens with enforcing the law by bringing private litigation against clinics — and anyone else who assists a woman in obtaining an abortion after six weeks.

“This kind of scheme to nullify the Constitution of the United States is one that all Americans — whatever their politics or party — should fear,” Garland said, warning that Texas’ approach could become a model for other states as well as other kinds of attack on other constitutional rights.

As noted in the lawsuit, “The United States has the authority and responsibility to ensure that Texas cannot evade its obligations under the Constitution and deprive individuals of their constitutional rights by adopting a statutory scheme designed specifically to evade traditional mechanisms of federal judicial review.”

The Justice Department is seeking a declaratory judgment declaring the Texas abortion ban invalid, as well as a “preliminary and permanent injunction against the State of Texas — including all of its officers, employees, and agents, including private parties” who would enforce the abortion ban.

DOJ was surprised by Supreme Court’s actions

The US Supreme Court last week declined a request by clinics to block the law from going into effect.

In an unsigned order, the court’s majority wrote that while the clinics had raised “serious questions regarding the constitutionality of the Texas law,” they had not met a burden that would allow the court to block it at this time due to “complex” and “novel” procedural questions.

The Supreme Court’s refusal to stop the law from going into effect caught Justice Department officials by surprise, according to a DOJ official, since every other similar restrictive law had been blocked.

Read the entire lawsuit below.