Following U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland‘s pledge that the Justice Department would “explore all options” to challenge Texas’ recently enacted abortion law, Democrats on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee sent a unanimous letter to Garland requesting him to use the full force of the Department of Justice to defend a woman’s constitutional right to choose an abortion. Texas Reps. Sylvia Garcia, Sheila Jackson Lee and Veronica Escobar joined their colleagues in urging the department to take legal action against “would-be vigilantes” and reiterated Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent in the ruling.
“S.B. 8 effectively bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, well before many women know that they are pregnant,” the letter states. “This ban is a clear violation of a woman’s right to choose an abortion prior to fetal viability established nearly 50 years ago under Roe v. Wade.”
In the latest push from government officials to counter Texas’ new abortion law, Democrats on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee called on the Department of Justice to prosecute people who are now empowered to file lawsuits against abortion seekers under Texas’ new abortion law. On Monday, Garland issued a statement saying law enforcement officials were exploring options to challenge the law “to protect the constitutional rights of women and other persons, including access to an abortion.”
The new law creates a private right of action that allows an individual to sue not only reproductive healthcare providers that violate this statutory ban, but any individual who ‘aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion’ in violation of the ban—all while specifically prohibiting state officials from enforcing the statute. Describing the new law as a clear violation of women’s right to choose an abortion under the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, the federal legislators argued that the “Department of Justice cannot permit private individuals seeking to deprive women of the constitutional right to choose an abortion to escape scrutiny under existing federal law simply because they attempt to do so under the color of state law. Indeed, the Department is fully empowered to prosecute any individual who attempts, ‘under color of any law,’ to deprive a United States citizen of ‘any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution.’”