The U.S. Justice Department has filed an emergency motion with a federal judge asking him to block the southwestern state of Texas from enforcing a new law that bans nearly all abortions in the state.
In a 45-page motion filed late Tuesday with a federal district court, the Justice Department argued that the new law, commonly known as Senate Bill 8, was drafted “to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights” to obtain an abortion.
The emergency motion is the second legal action the Biden administration has taken against Texas over the new law, after filing a lawsuit last week citing the same legal grounds.
The new law, which took effect on September 1, outlaws abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy — which opponents say is well before most women are even aware they are pregnant — with no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.
Texas is among a dozen mostly Republican-led states that have enacted so-called “heartbeat” abortion bans, which prohibits the procedure once a “fetal heartbeat” is detected, often at six weeks, and sometimes before a woman realizes she is pregnant.
Courts in the past have blocked such bans, ruling they did not conform to the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision giving women in the U.S. the constitutional right to an abortion without excessive government interference.
The Texas anti-abortion law is also unusual in that it gives private citizens the power to enforce it by allowing them to sue abortion providers and anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion after six weeks. Those winning such lawsuits would be entitled to at least $10,000.
The Justice Department called this provision “an unprecedented scheme that seeks to deny women and providers the ability to challenge S.B. 8 in federal court.”
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to block Texas from implementing the new anti-abortion law in a 5-to-4 decision earlier this month that enraged supporters of Roe v. Wade, including President Joe Biden, who warned that “complete strangers will now be empowered to inject themselves in the most private and personal health decisions faced by women.”
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters.