Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday said that the Justice Department will work with law enforcement to ensure the safety of abortion clinics, following the Supreme Court’s decision to allow Texas’ ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy stand.
“While the Justice Department urgently explores all options to challenge Texas SB8 in order to protect the constitutional rights of women and other persons, including access to an abortion, we will continue to protect those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services pursuant to our criminal and civil enforcement of the FACE Act,” Garland said in a press release.
Garland noted that the FACE Act, which was signed into law in 1994, already criminalizes the act of blocking access to an abortion clinic.
“The FACE Act prohibits the use or threat of force and physical obstruction that injures, intimidates, or interferes with a person seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services. It also prohibits intentional property damage of a facility providing reproductive health services,” Garland said. “The department has consistently obtained criminal and civil remedies for violations of the FACE Act since it was signed into law in 1994, and it will continue to do so now.”
Garland said that the DOJ is ready to “provide support” from federal law enforcement when an abortion clinic or reproductive health center is “under attack.”
“We have reached out to U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and FBI field offices in Texas and across the country to discuss our enforcement authorities,” Garland said.
Garland’s latest statement follows the brief remarks he issued shortly after the Supreme Court broke their silence on Texas’ anti-abortion law last Wednesday night, with five of the conservative justices upholding the ban. Texas’ restrictive abortion law initially went into effect Sept. 1 after the Supreme Court failed to act on it. Under the law, individuals from anywhere in the country can sue anyone who performs post-six week abortions, or who “aids or abets” it — which could net the plaintiff a $10,000 bounty and all legal fees paid for by the defendant.
On Thursday, Garland said that the DOJ is “deeply concerned” about the Texas anti-abortion law that the Supreme Court allowed to stand and that it is “evaluating all options” to protect reproductive rights.
Shortly before Garland issued his brief statement on Thursday, President Biden took aim at the Supreme Court’s overnight ruling by painting it as an “unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights under Roe v. Wade” in a statement.
“By allowing a law to go into effect that empowers private citizens in Texas to sue health care providers, family members supporting a woman exercising her right to choose after six weeks, or even a friend who drives her to a hospital or clinic, it unleashes unconstitutional chaos and empowers self-anointed enforcers to have devastating impacts,” the President said.
The President also announced that he directed his administration’s Gender Policy Council and the Office of the White House Counsel to launch a “whole-of-government effort” to respond to the Supreme Court’s ruling — which entails looking at ways that the Department of Health and Human Services and the Justice Department can ensure Texas women that they have access to safe and legal abortions under Roe v. Wade.
Several Democrats have since called for the congressional codification of abortion rights — and urged the elimination of the filibuster if need be.
Echoing Democrats such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Ed Markey (D-MA), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) told CNN on Sunday that nixing the filibuster is necessary in order for Democrats’ legislative priorities to pass in a 50-50 Senate.
“So, my solution to this, which is my solution for voting rights and so many other things, including climate change, where one side of the country is in flames, the other side of the country is flooded, with people dying submerged in their cars, I believe we should abolish the filibuster,” Klobuchar said.
Klobuchar’s remarks were issued after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) vowed congressional action to codify Roe v. Wade into law. The chances of progressive legislation such abortion access, however, surviving the filibuster are virtually nonexistent in a 50-50 Senate unless it can get through the reconciliation process.