WASHINGTON (AP) – Justice Department said Monday it will not tolerate violence against anyone trying to get an abortion in Texas as federal officials explore options to challenge a new state law banning most abortions.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department “would protect those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services” under a federal law known as the Freedom of Access to Clinics Act.
Garland said in a statement that federal prosecutors are still urgently exploring options to challenge Texas law. He said the Justice Department would apply federal law “to protect the constitutional rights of women and others, including access to an abortion.”
Federal law, commonly known as the FACE Act, prohibits physically obstructing or using the threat of force to intimidate or interfere with a person seeking reproductive health services. The law also prohibits damaging property at abortion clinics and other reproductive health centers.
New Texas law prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, usually around six weeks, before some women know they are pregnant. Courts have blocked the imposition of similar restrictions in other states, but Texas law differs significantly because it leaves enforcement in the hands of private citizens through lawsuits rather than criminal prosecutions.
Justice Department officials have also been in contact with U.S. attorneys in Texas and FBI outside offices in the state to discuss enforcing federal provisions.
“The department will support federal law enforcement when an abortion clinic or reproductive health center is attacked,” Garland said. “We will not tolerate violence against those who seek to obtain or provide reproductive health services, physical obstructions, or property damage that violate the FACE Act.”