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Justice Department seeks immediate order blocking enforcement of Texas abortion law

The filing calls the restrictive statute an "unprecedented scheme" to deny women and providers the ability to challenge it in federal court.
Image: Inside The Whole Women's Health Abortion Clinic As Scalia Death Upends Case Involving Texas Abortion Safety Rules
A procedure room with medical equipment at the Whole Woman's Health abortion clinic in San Antonio, on Feb. 16, 2016.Matthew Busch / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

The U.S. Justice Department late Tuesday sought an immediate court order to stop Texas from enforcing its restrictive new law that effectively bans most abortions.

The request, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, alleges that the law is an “unprecedented scheme” that seeks to deny women and providers the ability to challenge the statute in federal court and is unconstitutional.

The Justice Department requested a restraining order or preliminary injunction to “protect the constitutional rights of women in Texas,” the interests of the U.S. in assuring that states adhere to the Constitution, and federal agencies and employees whose lawful actions would be prohibited by the law.

A lawsuit filed last week challenges the state's ban on all abortions after cardiac activity is detected in the fetus, which happens before most women know they are pregnant, at roughly six weeks. It has no exceptions for cases of rape, sexual abuse or incest. It also allows members of the public to sue doctors who provide abortions prohibited by the law, women who try to get such an abortion or anyone who helps them.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to block the law, which is known as S.B. 8 and went into effect Sept. 1.

Last week, President Joe Biden promised a "whole-of-government" response to try to safeguard access to abortions in Texas. He ordered evaluations of what “legal tools we have to insulate women and providers from the impact of Texas' bizarre scheme of outsourced enforcement to private parties.”

On Monday, a state district judge issued an order that temporarily blocks Texas Right to Life from suing Planned Parenthood of Texas and its abortion providers under S.B. 8.

Judge Karin Crump of the 250th District Court ruled that the anti-abortion group may not file suit against Planned Parenthood until a final judgment is entered in the DOJ lawsuit.

Crump found that Planned Parenthood could suffer irreparable harm without the injunction and that the Justice Department is likely to prevail in its lawsuit, which would block the law permanently.

She set a trial date of April 4, 2022.