US Attorney General comments on Texas abortion bill, ‘urgently explores all options’ to challenge

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Abortion rights supporters gather to protest Texas SB 8 in front of Edinburg City Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021, in Edinburg, Texas. The nation’s most far-reaching curb on abortions since they were legalized a half-century ago took effect Wednesday in Texas, with the Supreme Court silent on an emergency appeal to put the law on hold.(Joel Martinez/The Monitor via AP)

WASHINGTON (KAMR/KCIT) – In the wake of the second special session of the Texas Legislature, a roster of controversial new laws went into effect. These include a ban on “Critical race theory” being taught in classrooms, permitless carry of firearms in public, and a “fetal heartbeat” bill banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.

Going even further, the abortion law allows private citizens to sue abortion providers and individuals who help someone have an abortion procedure. Those who are sued could face up to $10,000 in fines.

Amid public national and international outcry about the abortion bill, now the most restrictive abortion law in the country, US Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a statement with the US Department of Justice:

“While the Justice Department urgently explores all options to challenge Texas SB8 in order to protect the constitutional rights of women and other persons, including access to an abortion, we will continue to protect those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services pursuant to our criminal and civil enforcement of the FACE Act, 18 U.S.C. § 248.

“The FACE Act prohibits the use or threat of force and physical obstruction that injures, intimidates, or interferes with a person seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services. It also prohibits intentional property damage of a facility providing reproductive health services. The department has consistently obtained criminal and civil remedies for violations of the FACE Act since it was signed into law in 1994, and it will continue to do so now.

“The department will provide support from federal law enforcement when an abortion clinic or reproductive health center is under attack. We have reached out to U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and FBI field offices in Texas and across the country to discuss our enforcement authorities. 

“We will not tolerate violence against those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services, physical obstruction or property damage in violation of the FACE Act.”

In a late-night ruling on Sept. 1, the US Supreme Court chose to allow the law to remain in force for the moment, denying an emergency appeal from abortion providers and other opponents with a 5-4 vote.

“In reaching this conclusion, we stress that we do not purport to resolve definitively any jurisdictional or substantive claim in the applicants’ lawsuit. In particular, this order is not based on any conclusion about the constitutionality of Texas’s law, and in no way limits other procedurally proper challenges to the Texas law, including in Texas state courts,” the unsigned order said.

While the Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts noted that the constitutionality of the law has not been settled, leaving open the possibility for imminent court battles, the controversial bill has continued fuel tension.

With the next special session right around the corner, this one to focus on redistricting after the latest census, the impacts of the sessions altogether may very well be seen in the 2022 elections. Or, perhaps earlier, depending on the next move of the US Department of Justice.

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