AUSTIN, Texas - About a week after the Supreme Court upheld Senate Bill 8, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the Department of Justice had filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas over the law banning abortions after a 'heartbeat' is detected.
"The Department of Justice has the duty to defend the Constitution of the United States and to uphold the will of the law," said Garland at a press conference on Thursday. "Today we fulfill that duty."
The lawsuit against Texas claims that SB 8 is preempted by federal law and therefore invalid under the Supremacy Clause and the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. It also calls on a permanent injunction to stop the state from enforcing it.
On Thursday, the president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health - an organization which had joined others trying to block the bill from going into effect - was invited to the White House to represent abortion providers.
In a statement provided to FOX 7, Amy Hagstrom Miller said in part:
"I am so thankful to the Justice Department for suing the state of Texas today and declaring that abortion care is healthcare. It’s a monumental time for the federal government to step in and restore all people’s rights to safe, high-quality abortion care...Thank you to the Biden Administration for listening to us, respecting our work, valuing our patients, and taking these vital steps towards justice."
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which represented Whole Woman’s Health in the case challenging SB 8, also responded to the lawsuit.
"It’s a gamechanger that the Department of Justice has joined the legal battle to restore constitutionally protected abortion access in Texas and disarm vigilantes looking to collect their bounties," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the organization.
Meanwhile, those in support of the law are grateful for the past 8 days. "By our estimation, there are as many as 200 unborn babies’ lives who are saved every day that law is in effect," said Dr. Joe Pojman, executive director of the Texas Alliance for Life.
A controversial and unique aspect of the law is that it allows any person to sue anyone who performs or aids in an abortion, something the DOJ says was designed to evade judicial review. However, Dr. Pojman said because of this provision, it’s unclear what the federal government's role can or should be.
"Since there’s never been a law like this that has been created which allows citizens to enforce it, it’s not clear that the federal government is going to have a successful lawsuit; we’re going to have to see," he said. "We’re kind of on new legal ground."
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted out a response to the lawsuit on Thursday, saying that he "will use every available resource to fight for life."