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US Justice Department Promises Protection for Texas Abortion Seekers, Clinics

FILE - U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland attends a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, June 25, 2021.

The U.S. Justice Department said Monday it would protect those seeking abortions in Texas after a restrictive and controversial state law had passed.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department is still urgently looking to challenge a new Texas law that bans most abortions in the state.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block the law after abortion rights supporters had urged the court to hear the case.

Garland said in a statement that Washington would "protect those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services" under a federal law known as the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.

The law, commonly known as the FACE Act, protects those seeking abortions against threats or interference.

"The department will provide support from federal law enforcement when an abortion clinic or reproductive health center is under attack," Garland said. "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."

Texas is among a dozen mostly Republican-led states that have enacted "heartbeat" abortion bans, which outlaw the procedure once the rhythmic contracting of fetal cardiac tissue can be detected, often at six weeks, and sometimes before a woman realizes she is pregnant.

The Texas law is 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 Texas law went into effect at the start of the day Wednesday, and even before the Supreme Court issued its order, supporters of the law praised the court for not blocking it.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press.