(WASHINGTON) — The Justice Department is expected to file suit against the state of Texas in the coming days challenging its restrictive law against abortions, a source familiar with the matter confirmed to ABC News Wednesday.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement Monday that the DOJ was “urgently” exploring all options to potentially challenge the Texas law in court, and a source familiar confirmed such a lawsuit could come as soon as Thursday.
It’s not immediately clear under what grounds the federal government would seek to block the law’s implementation, though The Wall Street Journal — which first reported the news — said it is expected to “pursue an argument that the Texas law illegally interferes with federal interests.”
A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment to ABC News on the matter.
In the statement Monday, Garland said, “While the Justice Department urgently explores all options to challenge Texas SB8 in order to protect the constitutional rights of women and other persons, including access to an abortion, we will continue to protect those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services pursuant to our criminal and civil enforcement of the FACE Act, 18 U.S.C. § 248.”
“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,” the statement continued. “It also prohibits intentional property damage of a facility providing reproductive health services. The department has consistently obtained criminal and civil remedies for violations of the FACE Act since it was signed into law in 1994, and it will continue to do so now.”
The Texas statute, which is the most restrictive abortion law in the country, bars physicians from providing abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, or as soon as six weeks into a pregnancy — often before a woman would even know they were pregnant. There is an exception for medical emergencies, but not in cases of rape or incest.
The law is also unique in that it is enforced through civil action, not criminal, and rewards those who sue with $10,000 if they win, incentivizing people to file suit against individuals who sought an abortion after six weeks or anyone who assisted the individual in getting one.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court formally rejected a request by Texas abortion providers to block the state’s severe new law as legal challenges continue.
The unsigned order from the court said the providers had “raised serious questions regarding the constitutionality of the Texas law at issue,” but added “their application also presents complex and novel antecedent procedural questions” that they were unable to resolve.
The new law has triggered outrage from those who support a women’s right to an abortion nationwide. Companies like Uber and Lyft have offered to pay legal fees for any driver who is sued under the law and dating apps Match and Bumble, both headquartered in Texas, pledged to support women seeking abortions.
On the other side, many state lawmakers have said they intend to copy the wording of the Texas law in order to enact similar bans in their states.
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