WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is filing a lawsuit against Texas challenging its near-total ban on abortions, which the Supreme Court declined to block last week.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday that the Justice Department filed the suit against Texas over its law, which he called “clearly unconstitutional under longstanding Supreme Court precedent.”
“The United States has the authority and the responsibility to ensure that no state can deprive individuals of their constitutional rights to a legislative scheme specifically designed to prevent the vindication of those rights,” Garland said at a news conference.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in federal court in Texas, argues the law is unconstitutional and was enacted in open defiance of the Constitution.
The DOJ seeks a declaratory judgement that the law, known as Senate Bill 8, is invalid under the Supremacy Clause and the 14th Amendment, is preempted by federal law and violates the doctrine of intergovernmental immunity.
The statute prohibits most abortions, even in cases of rape, sexual abuse, or incest. It also prohibits any effort to aid — or any intent to aid — the doctors who provide the prohibited abortions or women who try to get one.
S.B. 8 bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant. It also has unique enforcement provisions allowing private citizens, rather than state officials, to sue abortion providers.
After the Supreme Court’s decision last week, President Joe Biden vowed a “whole-of-government” response to try to safeguard access to abortions in Texas. Biden directed White House legal and gender policy advisers, the DOJ and his Health and Human Services Department to evaluate what “legal tools we have to insulate women and providers from the impact of Texas’ bizarre scheme of outsourced enforcement to private parties.”
Garland said DOJ’s decision was not based on pressure from lawmakers or the White House.
“We carefully evaluated the law and the facts and this complaint expressed our view of the law and the facts,” said Garland.
The administration’s move comes as the conservative 6-3 Supreme Court majority is expected to take up a case from Mississippi in its term beginning this fall that challenges Roe v. Wade.
Rebecca Shabad is a congressional reporter for NBC News, based in Washington.
Teaganne Finn is a political reporter for NBC News.