President Joe Biden’s administration on Friday urged a judge to impose a near-complete ban on abortion imposed by Texas – the strictest such law in the country – in a key battle in the brutal legal war on abortion access in the United States. .
The US Supreme Court allowed the Republican-backed law to take effect on September 1, while litigation over its legality continues in lower courts. The US Justice Department sued in federal court eight days later to try to invalidate it.
During a hearing in the Texas capital Austin, Justice Department lawyers asked U.S. District Judge Robert Pittman to temporarily block the law, saying the state’s Republican legislature and governor enacted it in open defiance of the Constitution. did.
“There is no doubt that a state cannot ban abortion at six weeks under binding constitutional precedents,” said Brian Netter, the Justice Department’s lead attorney on the matter.
“Texas knew this but, it wanted a 6-week ban anyway. So, this state resorted to an unprecedented scheme of vigilante justice.” Pittman allowed Netter to argue for about 15 minutes before interrupting to ask about the limits of the Justice Department’s authority to challenge state laws.
The authority claimed by the Justice Department is “quite expansive,” the judge said.
Netter said the Justice Department does not often challenge state laws, but will do so when a law violates the US Constitution and is written in a way that prevents citizens from proving their rights.
“What is unique and different about this law is that it specifically deprives those affected by the law the ability to obtain redress,” Netter said.
Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide, the Supreme Court recognized a woman’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy. In December the High Court is due to hear a debate on the legality of the Mississippi abortion law, with officials in that state asking judges to reverse Roe v. Wade.
Texas law prohibits abortions beginning at six weeks of pregnancy, a point when many women do not yet realize they are pregnant. This and the Mississippi measure are among a series of Republican-backed laws passed by various states prohibiting abortion.
About 85% to 90% of abortions are performed after six weeks. Texas makes no exceptions in rape and incest cases. It lets ordinary citizens enforce the ban, rewarding them with a reward of at least $10,000 if they successfully sue someone who helps them perform an abortion after a fetal heart activity has been detected.
Four Whole Women’s Health abortion clinics across the state have reported that visits to patients have decreased, and some employees have left jobs since the Texas law took effect.
In an emergency motion to the court, the Justice Department provided affidavits from doctors who described the impact of the Texas law on patients.
In a statement, Dr. Joshua Yap said he witnessed a “surge” of women in neighboring Oklahoma seeking abortions. “One of the most heartbreaking cases I saw recently was of a Texas minor who was raped by a family member,” said Yap, a parent who made the eight-hour drive from Galveston to Oklahoma as the girl Was more than six weeks pregnant.
The state’s top law enforcement official, Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, argued in a court filing Wednesday that the Justice Department’s lawsuit should be dismissed on grounds of jurisdiction. The Texas law must be challenged in state court through lawsuits brought against abortion providers by private citizens, Paxton said.
Former Democratic President Barack Obama appointed Pittman to the judiciary in 2014.
The hearing will also include arguments from other interested parties, including Oscar Stille, a disapproved attorney in home confinement for tax evasion, who in September was among the first to test a key provision of the law by suing a San Antonio doctor. had become one. Abortion.