The US Department of Justice (DOJ) said Monday that it would not tolerate violence against those who are trying to obtain or to provide reproductive health services, after a Texas law banning abortions as early as six weeks into the pregnancy took effect on September 1.
Senate Bill 8 (SB8), signed by Governor Greg Abbott in May, will allow any private citizen to sue abortion providers for up to $10,000 per person involved. The new bill has banned abortion when an ultrasound can detect a “heartbeat,” often before the woman knows she is pregnant. The “general populace at large” is also empowered to sue anyone who helps a woman seeking access to abortion. This can include Uber drivers or anyone providing financial assistance to obtain the abortion.
The Supreme Court refused to block SB8 on Wednesday, denying a request for injunctive relief filed by women and abortion rights activist groups to prevent the law from taking effect. SB8 is currently the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the US.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Monday that the DOJ was “urgently explor[ing] all options” to challenge the new law. He also said that the DOJ would continue to protect those either receiving or providing reproductive health under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (“FACE Act”), which prohibits the use of force and physical obstruction to injure, intimidate, or interfere with someone seeking or providing reproductive health services.
Further, Garland said that the DOJ would provide support from federal law enforcement when an abortion clinic or reproductive health center was “under attack.” As he concluded: “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.”