The Department of Justice has formally requested that the Supreme Court temporarily block the Texas law that bans abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy.
In an Oct. 18 filing with the high court, the Justice Department (DOJ) sought an order to suspend enforcement of Texas’s Senate Bill 8, known as SB 8, while the Biden administration’s legal challenge was being considered. The filing marks the second time the Supreme Court has been presented with the option to block the law, as last month, the court’s majority voted to allow it to go into effect.
“SB8 is plainly unconstitutional under this Court’s precedents,” the court filing reads (pdf). “Texas has not seriously argued otherwise.”
Allowing the law to remain in effect would “perpetuate the ongoing irreparable injury to thousands of Texas women who are being denied their constitutional rights,” the DOJ argued.
“Texas’s insistence that no party can bring a suit challenging SB8 amounts to an assertion that the federal courts are powerless to halt the State’s ongoing nullification of federal law,” its lawyers wrote. “That proposition is as breathtaking as it is dangerous.”
The DOJ asserted that if Texas is found right, other “states are free to use similar schemes to nullify other precedents or suspend other constitutional rights.”
U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman, an Obama appointee, earlier this month granted an emergency request from the Justice Department and blocked enforcement of the law. However, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals later sided with Texas, lifting the judge’s order that suspended enforcement of the law.
Critics of the measure have said SB8 employs an unusual enforcement mechanism, in which state officials are barred from enforcing the law. Instead, Texas residents can sue anyone—including doctors and medical staff—who provide assistance to a woman to obtain an abortion.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, has previously argued that the federal government doesn’t have the right to intervene. Paxton’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.
On Oct. 15, Paxton told local media that the law “was passed by our duly elected representatives, the way it’s supposed to work, it’s always supposed to work that way. And, obviously, this saves about 150 babies a day.”
Pro-life groups last week praised the ruling by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
“We are excited to continue saving hundreds of lives through the Texas Heartbeat Act. However, the battle is not finished. We expect the Biden administration to appeal to the Supreme Court of the U.S., and we are confident Texas will ultimately defeat these attacks on our life-saving efforts,” Texas Right to Life director of media and communication Kimberlyn Schwartz said in a statement.
In December, the Supreme Court is scheduled to consider a Mississippi law that bars abortions after about 15 weeks of pregnancy. Mississippi’s lawyers are asking the high court to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
Texas has until Oct. 21 to file its response with the Supreme Court, the court requested on Oct. 18.