The Justice Department has once again requested that a federal court put a stop to the draconian abortion ban that recently went into effect in Texas. The law bans most abortions after some six weeks of pregnancy, which is before most people even know that they’re pregnant. It also allows private citizens to sue those suspected of involvement in the procurement of an illegal abortion, with at least $10,000 rewards to the plaintiffs for successful lawsuits along these lines — essentially setting up a bounty system that targets those involved with the expression of reproductive rights.
The Justice Department asked the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals to suspend the abortion law as litigation related to its suit against the law continues to play out. In its filing to that effect, the department said that letting the law stand would extend its “substantial harm to the United States’ sovereign interests and would disserve the public interest.” The department also said that by “both defying the Constitution and frustrating judicial review, Texas has not merely protracted its assault on the rights of its citizens; it has repudiated its obligations under our national compact in a manner that directly implicates sovereign interests of the United States.”
At one point, federal Judge Robert Pittman issued a preliminary order blocking enforcement of the abortion ban, but shortly afterwards, the 5th Circuit Court put a temporary administrative hold on Pittman’s directive, which allowed the law to once again become legally enforceable, per the courts. Now, the court is deliberating over whether to continue with that temporary hold or lift it, as the Justice Department wants. In their new filing, the department called out an argument from Texas that Pittman “had erred in targeting his order at state court officials, among others,” as CNN summarizes. Referring to the scheme by which private citizens can sue those involved with providing abortions, the department observed as follows:
‘Having chosen this supremely unusual means of enforcing its unconstitutional law, Texas bears the obligation to identify an alternative form of injunctive relief if it is dissatisfied with the particular mechanism adopted by the district court. Tellingly, Texas has not done so.’
Around the time that the Justice Department’s lawsuit was initially filed, Attorney General Merrick Garland proclaimed that the Texas abortion law “is clearly unconstitutional under longstanding Supreme Court precedent,” adding that federal officials have “the authority and responsibility to ensure that no state can deprive individuals of their constitutional rights through a legislative scheme specifically designed to prevent the vindication of those rights.”