Justice Department will 'protect' a woman's right to an abortion in Texas, attorney general says

Merrick Garland
Posted at 1:25 PM, Sep 06, 2021

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday said the Justice Department is "exploring all options" to challenge a bill that severely limits a woman's access to an abortion in Texas.

In a statement, Garland said that the Justice Department would challenge the law "to protect the constitutional rights of women and other persons, including access to an abortion."

The Texas law prevents a woman from obtaining an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected. That typically occurs about six weeks after conception — a time when some women may not even be aware that they are pregnant. The law does not make exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.

The law also incentivizes private citizens to file lawsuits against anyone aiding or abetting an illegal abortion — be it a doctor, a staff member at a facility that provides abortions, or a rideshare driver that takes a woman to a clinic for an abortion. Those successfully sued under the law can face a penalty of $10,000.

Garland added that federal prosecutors are exploring ways to protect access to abortion in Texas through the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act or the FACE Act.

According to the Associated Press, the FACE Act prohibits physically obstructing or using the threat of force to prevent a person from seeking reproductive health care. It also prohibits damaging property at abortion clinics and similar facilities.

The Texas law went into effect on Sept. 1. A day later, the Supreme Court — in a 5-4 decision, with Chief Justice John Roberts and the court's three liberal judges in dissent — allowed the law to stand for the time being.

President Joe Biden quickly released a statement denouncing the court's decision, promising a "whole-of-government response" to the ruling and the new Texas law.