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DOJ files lawsuit against Texas abortion law; pro-life groups say Biden admin. lacks jurisdiction

Merrick Garland
Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Department of Justice on April 21, 2021, in Washington, D.C. |

As the Biden administration files a lawsuit against Texas over its law banning abortions after six weeks gestation, pro-life groups are slamming the president for acting as a “puppet of the radical abortion agenda.”

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division. Accusing the state of acting in “defiance of the Constitution,” the lawsuit claims, “It is settled constitutional law that a State may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy before viability.’” 

“Yet Texas has done just that,” it continued. “The United States therefore seeks a declaratory judgment that S.B. 8 is invalid under the Supremacy Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment, is preempted by federal law, and violates the doctrine of intergovernmental immunity.” 

The Wall Street Journal first reported Wednesday that “the Biden administration is preparing to sue Texas over its new law banning most abortions.” Texas’ SB 8, also known as the Texas Heartbeat Act, became law on Sept. 1 after several courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, declined to block the measure from going into effect.

The law bans abortions after a baby's heartbeat can be detected, usually around six weeks gestation. Additionally, it allows private citizens to sue doctors who perform illegal abortions and individuals who help women obtain illegal abortions. 

Pro-life groups reacted unfavorably to the news that the Biden administration was planning to take legal action against Texas over SB 8. In a statement, Texas Right to Life Vice President Elizabeth Graham predicted that any lawsuit filed by the Biden administration would fail.

“Joe Biden has a long record of failures with protecting the unborn and pregnant women,” she asserted. He is a puppet of the radical abortion agenda, and his DOJ will quickly find that they do not have jurisdiction to stop the Texas Heartbeat Act.”

Earlier this week, Attorney General Merrick Garland indicated that the U.S. Department of Justice was exploring “all options” to challenge the law, vowing to “continue to protect those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services pursuant to our criminal and civil enforcement of the FACE Act.”

Garland added, “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.” 

Chelsey Youman, state director of Human Coalition Action Texas, agreed with Graham that the Biden administration did not have a strong legal case against SB 8. In a statement shared with The Christian Post, Youman said, “If violating the FACE Act is all the DOJ has to come up with to block the Texas Heartbeat Act, that’s good news!”

“SB 8 is a peaceful and constitutional law that uses civil lawsuits to protect innocent children from death by abortion. The FACE Act, which prohibits physical force or threats to keep women from entering abortion clinics, does not apply in this context.”

While Texas’ SB 8 has received strong condemnation from Democrats and pro-abortion activists, the American public is divided on the law.

A poll released by Rasmussen Reports earlier this week found that a plurality of Americans (46%) support the measure while 43% oppose it. At the same time, 46% of Americans expressed support for President Joe Biden’s push to “launch a whole-of-government effort … to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions.” 

The Susan B. Anthony List cited the public opinion poll in a statement condemning the Biden administration’s court challenge against the pro-life law. “Biden Democrats’ anti-life, anti-democracy attack on Texas and other pro-life states proves how out of touch they are with the American people,” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. 

“The Texas Heartbeat Act is a response to 50 years of Supreme Court interference in states’ legitimate interest in protecting life and their right to debate and pass laws reflecting their people’s values,” she added. “Biden, [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi and their radical allies want to permanently stifle that debate and impose abortion on demand up until the moment of birth, paid for by taxpayers.” 

As the executive branch takes legal action against Texas, top congressional Democrats have signaled an intent to codify Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide, into federal law.

Pelosi announced last week that upon returning from recess, “the House will bring up Congresswoman Judy Chu’s Women’s Health Protection Act to enshrine into law reproductive health care for all women across America.”

The legal battle over Texas’ SB 8 comes as the Supreme Court is slated to rule on the constitutionality of Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. A decision in favor of the state of Mississippi, which is asking the justices to reverse a lower court ruling striking down the law, would significantly weaken the precedent set by Roe v. Wade. The lawsuit filed against Texas Thursday repeatedly cites the precedents set by Roe v. Wade and the subsequent court decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey as reasons why the Texas law is unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in its upcoming October term. In a previous interview with CP, Diane Ferraro of the pro-life organization Save the Storks suggested that the court’s decision to hear the case involving the Mississippi pro-life law “will help open the door for them to hear other cases.” 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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