Texas abortion: Biden administration requests abortion law pause

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Abortion rights activists march to the house of US Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh
Doctors and women's rights groups have heavily criticised the law

The Biden administration has asked a judge to stop the enforcement of an abortion law in Texas.

The law, which came into effect on 1 September, is one of the most restrictive in the country.

It bans abortion from as early as six weeks and allows anyone to sue those involved in the procedure.

The US justice department has filed an emergency motion, seeking to block enforcement of the law while it pursues legal action.

The motion filed on Tuesday formally asks a federal judge to lift the ban while the justice department challenges the law.

The Supreme Court declined to block SB8, also known as the Texas Heartbeat Act, earlier this month.

Supreme Court justices ruled 5-4 against granting a block. The court did not respond to an emergency appeal filed by abortion providers.

President Joe Biden described the Supreme Court's ruling as an "unprecedented assault" on women's rights.

SB8 bans terminations after the detection of what anti-abortion campaigners call a foetal heartbeat - usually at six weeks, when many women do not know they are pregnant.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has said the term is misleading and what is being detected at such an early stage of pregnancy is a portion of foetal tissue "that will become the heart as the embryo develops".

The law also gives individuals the right to sue anyone who provides or facilitates access to an abortion past the six-week point. It does not allow the women who get the procedure to be sued.

People who successfully sue under the law will be awarded at least $10,000 (£7,200), in addition to any legal fees incurred.

Critics, like the American Civil Liberties Union, have said this leaves the responsibility for enforcing it on individuals, rather than local or state officials, and could give rise to abortion "bounty hunters".

Texas' Republican Governor Greg Abbott has defended the law, vowing his state will "always defend the right to life".

Other US states including Florida say they are considering similar laws.

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