By Sophie Boulter, World News Editor
The Department of Justice (DOJ) sued Texas over its ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, arguing that the ban is unconstitutional for “thwarting” the traditional process of judicial review.
This lawsuit is the first significant step by the Biden administration to contest the most restrictive ban on abortion in the U.S. The action comes after the Supreme Court denied abortion clinics’ requests last week to block Texas’s law.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said that the abortion law was purposefully created to stop women from exercising their rights.
“The obvious — and expressly acknowledged — intention of this statutory scheme is to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights by thwarting judicial review for as long as possible. Thus far, the law has had its intended effect,” Garland said.
The Texas law attempted to circumvent Supreme Court rulings which protect the right to abortion. By encouraging private citizens to enforce the ban through civil lawsuits, the bill has thus far avoided challenges in court.
“This kind of scheme to nullify the Constitution of the United States is one that all Americans — whatever their politics or party — should fear. If it prevails, it may become a model for action in other areas, by other states, and with respect to other constitutional rights and judicial precedents,” Garland said.
Garland argued that the Texas law would impede federal programs from carrying out their duties. For example, employees of the Departments of Defense and Labor were singled out for having “federal obligations” to ensure abortion access for affected citizens.
The lawsuit seeks a declaratory judgement stating that the Texas law is “invalid” under the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment and Supremacy Clause. The lawsuit also seeks an injunction which would forbid any future enforcement of the law.
Last week, Texas abortion clinics requested that the Supreme Court block the abortion law. The Supreme Court decided in an unsigned order to reject the clinics’ request, writing that the law was too procedurally “complex” to block.
“The applicants now before us have raised serious questions regarding the constitutionality of the Texas law at issue. But their application also presents complex and novel antecedent procedural questions on which they have not carried their burden,” the court said in a 5-4 decision.
The court did not rule on the constitutionality of the law. This means that if the justices decide to hear the DOJ’s case, they may eventually decide on a different ruling.
Critics of the DOJ lawsuit argue that it is politically motivated and aims to distract from the Biden administration’s policies.
“President Biden and his administration are more interested in changing the national narrative from their disastrous Afghanistan evacuation and reckless open border policies instead of protecting the innocent unborn,” Renae Eze, a spokeswoman for Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, said.
Pro-choice organizations, including Planned Parenthood, have supported the DOJ in the lawsuit, arguing that the Texas law contradicts the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling which protects the right to abortion.
“We are in uncharted legal territory, a state where Roe v. Wade is no longer essentially in effect,” Cecile Richards, former president of Planned Parenthood, said.
Xavier students differed in their perceptions of the bill.
Alexa Ollier, a senior philosophy major, said that the bill was the first step to a “pro-life dystopia.”
“The ‘heartbeat bill’ is an attack on public safety that threatens to allow an antagonistic threat mindset to flourish in Texas and other states, if the bill persists,” she said.
Maggie Hohlefelder, a senior theology major, argued that, though the bill was a “victory” for the pro-life movement, it is insufficient on its own.
“We need to focus our efforts on giving pregnant and parenting women access to good healthcare, paid maternity leave and social safety nets. The pro-life movement should be there fighting for it,” she said.