Attorney General

DOJ explores ways to challenge Texas abortion law; judge grants TRO against anti-abortion group

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U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has said the U.S. Department of Justice will use a federal law to protect the safety of women seeking abortions in Texas as the department “urgently explores all options” to challenge a law restricting abortions in the state.

Garland issued the statement Monday, just days after the Texas abortion law took effect. The measure permits private citizens to sue doctors and others who knowingly help a woman get an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected—which occurs at about six weeks of pregnancy. The U.S. Supreme Court denied an emergency request to block the law Sept. 1.

The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Texas Tribune have coverage of Garland’s statement.

Abortion providers in Texas began turning away many patients after the law took effect. Some clinics have stopped providing all abortion services, the Texas Tribune says, citing information on the Planned Parenthood website.

Garland said the DOJ would rely on civil and criminal enforcement provisions of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. The 1994 FACE Act bans the use or threat of force against people seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services.

“The department will provide support from federal law enforcement when an abortion clinic or reproductive health center is under attack,” Garland said. “We will not tolerate violence against those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services, physical obstruction or property damage in violation of the FACE Act.”

Also on Friday, a judge in Travis County, Texas, issued a temporary restraining order that blocks the state’s largest anti-abortion group, Texas Right to Life, from suing Planned Parenthood under the Texas law, report the New York Times and CNN. The order applies to Texas Right to Life along with parties “in active concert and participation with them.”

Texas Right to Life has set up a website to receive tips on violations of the new law. The TRO issued by Judge Maya Guerra Gamble expires Sept. 17.

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