Attorney General To Fight Texas Abortion Ban Somehow, He Figures
Photo: Senate Democrats, 2016, Creative Commons License 2.0

Attorney General Merrick Garland said yesterday the Justice Department will explore "all options" to protect women's right to get an abortion in Texas, although his statement didn't specify exactly what that would include. While so far there don't seem to be a lot of concrete actions being announced, it's at least a signal that the federal government won't sit back and do nothing as other states plan to enact similar abortion bans that would be enforced by vigilante lawsuits like Texas's vile SB 8.

Garland's announcement comes after last week's Supreme Court decision to let the law take effect without ruling on its constitutionality, or even hearing arguments on it, because why would you need little details like that before allowing a state to negate women's rights under Roe v. Wade? After all, the law was cleverly written to make private citizens the enforcers of the law, so the Supremes didn't have a state actor to enjoin. (Rebecca would like to shout, AGAIN, that they are enforcing it through the courts, making it very much state action, and doesn't understand why nobody is joining her in yelling about this.)

For now, Garland said that the DOJ has "reached out to U.S. Attorneys' Offices and FBI field offices in Texas and across the country to discuss our enforcement authorities," and pledged to enforce the federal law that bars making threats against women trying to enter reproductive health offices, or blocking facilities' entrances. Unfortunately, with most clinics in Texas already not providing abortions (except before the sixth week of pregnancy, or "two weeks after the first missed period if the person's periods are extremely regular") because of the new law, there aren't a lot of women trying to get in to clinics in the state in the first place.

The Washington Post reports that Texas Right to Life legislative director John Seago was very unhappy with Garland's announcement, so that alone seems like a good start. Seago said it's just

"absolutely ridiculous" that the Justice Department would act and ignore the Supreme Court.

"They are trying to come coerce Texas to follow their interests," said Seago. [...]

While the most straightforward approach would be to assist abortion providers in court, he said, that's not a possibility, as no lawsuits have been filed with abortion clinics in full compliance with the law.

That's unlikely to continue to be the case for long, however, since an assload of other red states are very excited about letting anti-abortion bounty hunters keep women in their place. At the very least, this could mean clinics and other healthcare providers should be able to have the DOJ on their side in federal lawsuits to block new bills from going into effect.

Garland made yesterday's announcement after President Joe Biden said Friday he would direct the DOJ to see what the federal government can do to protect women's rights.

I was told that there are possibilities within the existing law to have the Justice Department look and see whether there are things that can be done that can limit the independent action of individuals in enforcing . . . a state law.

Again, not a heck of a lot of detail there, but the main good news is that it's a warning shot signaling the administration isn't going to sit by and let some clever legal fiction to avoid judicial review make constitutional rights vanish into thin air.

[Texas Tribune / WaPo / Vox / Photo: Senate Democrats, Creative Commons License 2.0]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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