Justice Department asks judge to block Texas from enforcing controversial abortion law

·2 min read
File: A protestor holds a placard during a rally against the Texas abortion law (AP)
File: A protestor holds a placard during a rally against the Texas abortion law (AP)

The Justice Department has asked a federal judge to issue an emergency order preventing Texas from enforcing a law that bans nearly all abortions, saying that this move by the state prevents “women from exercising their constitutional rights”.

In the first such legal pushback by president Joe Biden’s administration, the department has sought a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction prohibiting the controversial law’s implementation, saying it will have far-reaching consequences for women’s reproductive rights. The law does not make any concessions for victims of rape and incest.

In its brief, the department has said: “This relief is necessary to protect the constitutional rights of women in Texas and the sovereign interest of the United States.”

Stating that the law has “gravely and irreparably impaired women’s ability to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion across the state”, the department argued: “The United States has the authority to seek redress from this Court against the State of Texas, particularly in light of the procedural obstacles that Texas erected to shield S.B. 8 from judicial scrutiny in suits by directly affected persons,” reported CNN.

The Texas bill is contrary to the decades of precedent prohibiting states from banning abortions before foetal viability, the department said.

The law — Senate Bill 8 — bans abortion in women once a medical professional detects cardiac activity in a foetus, which occurs usually around six weeks, an early stage where most women won’t be able to tell if they are pregnant.

It has been viewed as part of a broader policy move by Republicans nationwide pushing to outlaw most medical terminations of pregnancy, and has sparked a wave of protests from people defending women’s right to choose.

The legislation has also been criticised strongly by Mr Biden, who has called it “almost un-American” and vowed help from the federal administration to “ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions”.

Texas governor Greg Abbott has defended the law and said that it gives the time span of six weeks to victims of rape and incest to terminate the unwanted pregnancy.

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