Biden Administration Sues Texas Over Abortion Ban

Texas was sued by the Biden administration Thursday over its near-total ban against abortion. This lawsuit is part of a larger effort by the federal government in an effort to combat the most severe abortion regulations since Roe V. Wade. However, the suit could be complicated due to the law's novel enforcement approach that makes it more difficult for courts to uphold it.

Attorney General Merrick Garland addresses a news conference held at the Department of Justice in Washington. ASSOCIATED PRNS

The Key Facts

U.S. Attorney general Merrick Garland announced that Texas had sued the Department of Justice for violating U.S. Supreme Court precedent stipulating abortion is legal. Garland claimed the Texas law also violates federal law by undercutting federal agency authority and preventing them carrying out certain responsibilities. Federal officials could also be held liable, including those at the Department of Labor and the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Senate Bill 8 (SB 8) in Texas blocks abortions once a fetal beat is detected. This is a term that medical experts consider misleading and is usually six weeks into a pregnant woman's pregnancy. Because the law cannot be enforced by the government, it is more difficult to repeal than other abortion bans. Private citizens can bring lawsuits against anyone who aids or abets abortion. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law by stating that it was too early to challenge it in court. However, private citizens can only sue the state to protect the rights of individuals.

Important Quote

Garland stated Thursday that the United States has the power and responsibility to ensure that no state can deny individuals their constitutional rights by a legislative scheme that is specifically designed to stop the vindication of those rights.

Chief Critic

Texas Right to Life, an anti-abortion group, criticized the DOJ's reported lawsuit before it was filed. In a statement on Thursday, the agency stated that they will quickly discover that they don't have the jurisdiction to stop Texas Heartbeat Act.

Important Background

After the law went into effect on September 1, President Joe Biden promised that his administration would use all of its resources to fight it. He also directed agencies to examine the legal options available to the U.S. Department of Justice to counter the law. Merrick Garland, the U.S. Attorney General, stated that the DOJ was exploring all legal options to defend the Texas law. Other states may follow suit. He also said that the DOJ would be stepping up enforcement of Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Acts (FACE Act), which prohibits attempts to injure or intimidate people seeking or providing abortions. The law is being challenged by Congress. Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker, has promised to vote on the Womens Health Protection Act which would enshrine abortion rights in federal law.


Despite the fact that it was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in its entirety, abortion advocates won other smaller legal challenges to SB 8. A temporary restraining order was granted to an individual plaintiff that prevented Texas Right to Life, an anti-abortion group, from bringing any lawsuits against the law. The court also temporarily prohibited Texas Right to Life (which helped to draft SB8) from suing Planned Parenthood. According to the Associated Press, legal experts said that these rulings highlight the difficulty of challenging the law in courts. However, they are so narrowly tailored that they cannot stop other groups from bringing suits under the law. Texas Right to Life largely ignored the Planned Parenthood ruling, noting that they cannot sue everyone in Texas.

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Biden Administration Sets Up Texas Suit for Abortion Law (Wall Street Journal).

Federal govt could have a difficult time fighting Texas' abortion law (Associated Press).

Biden pledges action against Texas abortion ban with whole-of-government effort (Forbes).

Justice Department will protect women seeking abortions under Texas Abortion Ban (Forbes).

Two-thirds of Democrats Declare Abortion a Top Voting Issue in Texas Ban, Poll Findings (Forbes).