DOJ Fires Back at Texas' 'Unprecedented Scheme'

Agency asks federal court for restraining order on abortion ban while its suit moves through courts
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 15, 2021 6:57 AM CDT
DOJ Takes Another Big Step on Texas Abortion Ban
In this Sept. 1, 2021, file photo, women protest against the six-week abortion ban at the Capitol in Austin, Texas.   (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP File)

The Justice Department, which is suing Texas over its controversial abortion ban, has just made a big follow-up move. The DOJ has filed a 45-page emergency motion with a federal court, seeking a restraining order to block the ban while the agency's complaint works its way through the courts. The motion on Tuesday was presented to US District Judge Lee Yeakel, who's also overseeing the DOJ's lawsuit, and who also ruled against Gov. Greg Abbott in another big abortion case in 2020, notes Reuters.

In its filing, the federal agency argued that the Texas law, known as SB 8, would "prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights," per the Washington Post. The law, the nation's most restrictive against abortion, prohibits the procedure as early as 6 weeks into a pregnancy, before many women realize they're pregnant, and with no exceptions for rape or incest. The law is also garnering attention for allowing private citizens to pursue lawsuits of up to $10,000 against anyone who performs an abortion or helps a woman get one.

In addition, critics say SB 8 is designed to stymie pushback in court: By taking the enforcement of the law out of the state's hands, it "outrageously ... deputizes private citizens" to be in charge of that end, per a statement from President Biden earlier this month. Texas has brought forth "an unprecedented scheme that seeks to deny women and providers the ability to challenge SB 8 in federal court," Tuesday's motion reads, per the Post. "This attempt to shield a plainly unconstitutional law from review cannot stand." (Read more abortion stories.)

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