The law allows private citizens to sue those who provide or assist in abortions performed after approximately six weeks.
The United States Department of Justice has asked a federal court in Texas to temporarily halt enforcement of a new state law that bans most abortions.
Texas law, known as SB8, prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect heart activity, usually around six weeks, a point before which some women don’t even know they are pregnant.
In the emergency motion Tuesday night in the US District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division, the Department of Justice said: “A court may enter a temporary restraining order or a temporary restraining order. preliminary judicial review as a means of preventing harm to the author before the court can fully adjudicate the disputed claims. “
The motion comes after the Justice Department filed a lawsuit in Texas last week asking a federal judge to declare the law invalid because it illegally infringes on women’s constitutional rights and violates the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which it says that federal law supersedes state law.
Courts have prevented other states from imposing similar restrictions, but Texas law differs significantly because it leaves enforcement to private citizens through civil lawsuits rather than criminal prosecutors.
The law went into effect earlier this month after the country’s conservative-majority Supreme Court rejected an emergency appeal from abortion providers calling for the law to be suspended.
“When other states have enacted laws that restrict reproductive rights to the extent that SB8 does, the courts have ordered enforcement of the laws before they could go into effect,” the Justice Department said in the motion.
“In an effort to avoid that outcome, Texas devised an unprecedented scheme that seeks to deny women and providers the ability to challenge SB8 in federal court. This attempt to protect a clearly unconstitutional law from review cannot be sustained, ”he said.
The case has been assigned to Federal District Judge Robert Pitman.
President Joe Biden and leading Democrats have vowed to counter the law.
Texas law allows anyone to sue a person who provides or assists in an abortion after heart activity is detected.
It allows for a broad interpretation of what constitutes assisting in an abortion, and the person taking legal action need not have a connection to the woman seeking the abortion. They could be entitled to at least $ 10,000 in damages if they prevail in court.
The law does not include exceptions for rape or sexual assault.
The Texas law is the nation’s largest brake on abortion since the Supreme Court affirmed in the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision that women have a constitutional right to abortion.
Abortion providers have said they will comply, but some of the roughly two dozen abortion clinics in Texas have temporarily stopped offering abortion services altogether.
Meanwhile, clinics in neighboring states have seen an increase in Texas patients.