On Sept. 7, Democratic representatives of the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland. The letter urges him to take legal action and even criminally prosecute potential ‘vigilantes’ who attempt to report or stop abortion in Texas.
“We write to ask you to use the full power of the Department of Justice to defend a woman’s constitutional right to choose an abortion, a right now under assault by Texas Senate Bill 8 (“SB 8”),” wrote Jerry Nadler, the committee’s chairman.
“… we urge you to take legal action up to and including the criminal prosecution of would-be vigilantes attempting to use the private right of action established by that blatantly unconstitutional law.”
Last week, the Texas governor passed the ‘heartbeat’ law, which bans abortions past six weeks gestation, when a baby’s heartbeat can already be heard.
It takes advantage of a loophole in the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in 1973, which specifically stipulates that the state cannot intervene in a woman’s personal decision to have an abortion. The new Texas heartbeat law rewards up to $10,000 to those who legally denounce women and clinics that attempt to perform abortions.
In other words, the law would not be enforced by the state but by private citizens. This striking aspect of the heartbeat law got the Supreme Court to approve its implementation.
Noting this peculiarity of the Texas law, Democrats complained, “The Department of Justice cannot permit private individuals seeking to deprive women of the constitutional right to choose an abortion to escape scrutiny under existing federal law simply because they attempt to do so under the color of state law.”
In alignment with Democrats, the Department of Justice issued a statement on Sept. 6 warning the Texas government that it would use any method necessary to ensure that women in that state can access an abortion.
According to The Hill, Attorney General Garland wrote, “The department will 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.
“We will not tolerate violence against those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services, physical obstruction or property damage,” the chief of the Justice Department warned.
The Texas law has set a precedent for other pro-life Republican states that are considering similar measures.
In their letter, the Democrats disavow this trend.
“Anti-abortion groups in Texas have already begun setting up anonymous tip lines to allow individuals to report on their fellow citizens. Other states are preparing to enact similarly dangerous laws,” the letter warns.