Justice Department Seeks Order Against Texas Abortion Law

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FILE - In this Wednesday, March 4, 2020 file photo, abortion rights demonstrators including Jaylene Solache, of Dallas, Texas, right, rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington. In some states, the 2020 COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak has fueled attempts to ban abortions. Where the procedure remains available, some abortion providers report increased demand, often from women distraught over economic stress and health concerns linked to the pandemic. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The Justice Department asked Texas’ federal court to halt the implementation of a new Texas state law banning most abortions while it considers the case.

SB8 in Texas prohibits abortions after medical professionals detect cardiac activity. This is usually six weeks before most women realize they are pregnant. While other states have had to impose similar restrictions due to court rulings, Texas’ law is significantly different because it allows private citizens to enforce the law through civil lawsuits and not criminal prosecutions.

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After a Supreme Court decline of an urgent appeal from abortion providers requesting that the law be stayed, the law was put into effect this month.

The Justice Department stated that Tuesday night’s emergency motion at the U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas, Austin Division, “a court may enter either a temporary restraining or preliminary injunction to prevent harm to the movant prior the court can fully resolve the dispute claims.”

Robert Pitman, U.S. District Judge, was assigned the case.

The Justice Department filed a suit in Texas last week asking for a federal judge’s declaration that the law was invalid. It violated the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, which states federal law overstates state law.

The department used a similar argument to seek the temporary injunction or restraining order and stated that its challenge would likely succeed.

“When other States have enacted laws abridging reproductive rights to the extent that S.B. 8 does, courts have enjoined enforcement of the laws before they could take effect. In an effort to avoid that result, Texas devised an unprecedented scheme that seeks to deny women and providers the ability to challenge S.B. 8 in federal court. This attempt to shield a plainly unconstitutional law from review cannot stand.”

A Texas law allows anyone to bring a suit, even if they don’t have any connection to the woman having an abortion. If they win in court, they could get at least $10,000 in damages.

Since 1973, when the Supreme Court affirmed Roe v. Wade’s landmark 1973 decision that abortion is legal for women, Texas’s law has been the most restrictive in the country.

Although abortion providers said they would comply, some of the roughly two dozen Texas abortion clinics have already stopped offering abortion services. In the meantime, clinics in neighboring states have experienced a surge of patients from Texas.