US Attorney General says Justice Department will ‘protect’ abortion seekers in Texas

National News

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks about voting rights at the Justice Department in Washington, on Friday, June 11, 2021. (Tom Brenner/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

WASHINGTON — On Monday the U.S. Department of Justice issued the following statement from Attorney General Merrick B. Garland about Texas’ Heartbeat Law.

“While the Justice Department urgently explores all options to challenge Texas SB8 in order to protect the constitutional rights of women and other persons, including access to an abortion, we will continue to protect those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services pursuant to our criminal and civil enforcement of the FACE Act, 18 U.S.C. § 248.

The federal law, commonly known as the FACE Act, prohibits physically obstructing or using the threat of force to intimidate or interfere with a person seeking reproductive health services. The law also prohibits damaging property at abortion clinics and other reproductive health centers.

The new Texas law prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, usually around six weeks — before some women know they’re pregnant. Courts have blocked other states from imposing similar restrictions, but Texas’ law differs significantly because it leaves enforcement up to private citizens through lawsuits instead of criminal prosecutors.

Justice Department officials have also been in contact with U.S. attorneys in Texas and the FBI field offices in the state to discuss enforcing the federal provisions.

“The department will provide support from federal law enforcement when an abortion clinic or reproductive health center is under attack. We have reached out to U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and FBI field offices in Texas and across the country to discuss our enforcement authorities.

“We will not tolerate violence against those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services, physical obstruction, or property damage in violation of the FACE Act,” said Garland.

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