Democrats and reproductive rights activists on Tuesday pressured the Biden administration to take more aggressive steps to stop a Texas law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, even when administration officials and legal experts go recognize that it would be difficult to reduce the law in the coming months.
House Democrats, after similar calls over the weekend from a liberal law scholar, pushed Attorney General Merrick B. Garland to use the powers of the Justice Department to prosecute Texas residents who now have the law to sue women seeking abortion.
“We urge you to take legal action to prosecute potential vigilantes who try to use the private right of action established by this blatantly unconstitutional law,” said House Judiciary Committee Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York , and 22 House Democrats wrote in a letter to Mr. Garland.
The Justice Department referred reporters seeking a response to the letter to a statement from Mr. Garland the day before, saying police officers were “urgently” exploring options to challenge Texas law “to protect the constitutional rights of women and others, including access to abortion. “
The demands of House Democrats were the last push from the Liberals after the Supreme Court ruled last week that Texas law come into force. Instead of using state powers to enforce the law, the law gives private citizens the right to sue anyone who helps a woman get an abortion. By law, these plaintiffs can earn $ 10,000 and recover their legal fees if they win.
The law has emerged as the most cruel example of how former President Donald J. Trump tipped the Supreme Court’s balance sheet to the right by appointing three Conservative judges.
Now, President Biden’s base is pushing for him to do more things. But because of the new way Texas law is written, the conservative majority in the Supreme Court, and the slow pace of the judicial system, Biden administration officials have few options to protect abortion rights in Texas in short term.
“The Department of Justice has few legal avenues that are successful and federal courts are unlikely to be receptive to their challenges,” said Elizabeth W. Sepper, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin.
Biden noted his outrage last week calling the law “almost anti-American” and ordered the Justice and Health and Human Services departments to find ways to ensure women could have safe abortions in Texas, a task that U.S. officials ‘administration say they will take some time and creativity.
Garland said in his statement Monday that the federal government would strengthen enforcement of a 1994 law designed to protect women from harassment and intimidation while seeking abortions.
“The department will support federal law enforcement when an abortion clinic or reproductive health center is attacked,” Garland said. “We have contacted U.S. law firms and the FBI’s field offices in Texas and across the country to discuss our oversight authorities.”
Faced with calls from Democrats for the administration to do more, the White House and the Justice Department refused to say on Tuesday what else they could have in store.
“The White House council office, the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services continue to look for ways to expand women’s access to health care,” the press secretary told reporters of the White House, Jen Psaki.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, also called on Democrats to investigate whether Texas law was part of a national campaign conducted by conservative groups and funded by unnamed donors that sought to push through certain laws, such as suppression laws. of voters.
Understand Texas abortion law
“We did a rotten job in exposing this,” Whitehouse said. “We have been negligent, not just weak, in letting this transcend and not doing the work to communicate it to the American public.”
The idea of using the Justice Department’s fiscal powers to take on Texas law gained strength this weekend through an opinion piece in the Washington Post by constitutional scholar Laurence H. Tribe. The best way for Democrats to protect abortion rights is for Congress to pass a law, Mr. Tribe argued. But he said Democrats are unlikely to have enough votes in Congress and warned the Supreme Court could repeal the law anyway.
Instead, Mr. Tribe said, Mr. Garland has the power to take legal action against those who seek to deprive someone of their constitutional rights.
Mr Tribe said the law Garland was to use had been passed in the years after the Civil War to prevent members of the Ku Klux Klan from lynching blacks and trying to prevent them from voting.
“The attorney general should announce, as soon as possible, that he will use federal law as much as possible to deter and prevent bounty hunters from using Texas law,” Tribe wrote. “If Texas wants to enable private vigilantes to intimidate abortion providers so they don’t serve women, why not make bounty hunters think twice before engaging in this bullying?”
But Brian Fallon, the executive director of the progressive Demand Justice group, which advocates expanding the number of seats in the Supreme Court, called on Democrats to focus on that larger goal, saying it could affect countless policy issues.
“This is a much bigger and harder problem to solve, and a lot of people continue to avoid it all together,” Fallon said. “The current reality is that there will be more innovations beyond the Texas statute that we can expect in the coming months and years.”