Justice Department planning to sue Texas over abortion law

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The Department of Justice is planning to sue Texas as soon as this week, POLITICO has confirmed, a move that comes just days after Attorney General Merrick Garland said his department is exploring options to challenge the state’s strict abortion law.

While the lawsuit could come as soon as Thursday, it’s possible the timeline will be pushed back, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the Justice Department’s preparations. The Biden administration has faced building pressure to act after the Supreme Court allowed the law to take effect in a 5-4 decision.

The Justice Department’s lawsuit is expected to argue that the Texas law illegally interferes with federal interests.

The new Texas law, SB 8, bans abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, usually around six weeks, before some women even know they are pregnant. The law places enforcement responsibilities on private parties, by incentivizing individuals who can recover $10,000 or more if they win a case against a party they accuse of performing or aiding in an abortion. By putting enforcement powers in the hands of private citizens, instead of state or local government officials, it leaves opponents of the bill without an obvious party to sue.

A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment.

Garland and President Joe Biden have been vague about the Justice Department’s options for responding to the Texas law. Biden has promised a “whole-of-government” response, and said last week that the Justice Department and Department of Health and Human Services would take steps to protect abortion rights in Texas.

"I was told that there are possibilities within the existing law to have the Justice Department look and see whether there are things that can be done that can limit the independent action of individuals in enforcing … a state law,” Biden said. “I don’t know enough to give you an answer yet.”

Vice President Kamala Harris will meet with abortion and reproductive health providers and patients from Texas, Mississippi, Kentucky and New Mexico on Thursday to talk about the impact of SB 8.

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