Biden administration asks judge to halt Texas heartbeat abortion law

The Biden administration on Friday urged a judge to block Texas’ heartbeat law, which restricts abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected (at around 6 weeks).

During a hearing in the Texas capital of Austin, Justice Department lawyers asked U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman to block the law temporarily, saying the state’s Republican legislature and governor enacted it in an open defiance of the Constitution. “There is no doubt under binding constitutional precedents that a state may not ban abortions at six weeks,” said Brian Netter, the lead Justice Department attorney on the case. “Texas knew this but, it wanted a 6-week ban anyway. So this state resorted to an unprecedented scheme of vigilante justice.”

The Texas law lets ordinary citizens enforce the ban, rewarding them at least $10,000 if they successfully sue anyone who helped provide an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected. The U.S. Supreme Court on Sept. 1 took no action to stop the law from taking effect. The U.S. Justice Department eight days later sued in federal court to try to invalidate it.

Will Thompson, an attorney in the Texas Attorney General’s Office, countered the Justice Department’s arguments, saying there were plenty of opportunities for people in Texas to challenge the law on their own, and claiming the Department’s arguments were filled with “hyperbole and inflammatory rhetoric.”

“This is not some kind of vigilante scheme, as opposing counsel suggests,” said Thompson. “This is a scheme that uses lawful process of justice in Texas.” Judge Pitman, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama in 2014, asked Thompson: “My obvious question to you is: If the state is so confident in the constitutionality of the limitations on woman’s access to abortion, then why did it go to such great lengths to create this private cause of action rather than do it directly?” Thompson responded that laws providing for enforcement are not as unusual as the Justice Department has claimed [Reuters].



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