Congressional Democrats urge U.S. attorney general to prosecute any Texas abortion “vigilantes”
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Democrats on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee are calling on U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice to prosecute people who are now empowered to file lawsuits against abortion seekers under Texas’ new abortion law.
In the letter signed by all Democratic members of the committee, including Texas Reps. Sylvia Garcia, Sheila Jackson Lee and Veronica Escobar, Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler of New York urged the department to take legal action against “would-be vigilantes” and reiterated Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent in the ruling.
“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,” the Democrats’ letter said. “Indeed, the Department is fully empowered to prosecute any individual who attempts, ‘under color of any law,’ to deprive a United States citizen of ‘any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution.’”
The members went on to call the new Texas law a clear violation of women’s right to choose an abortion under the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.
The letter is the latest push from government officials to counter the law after the Supreme Court allowed the near-total abortion ban to go into effect last week. Instead of relying on state law enforcement to implement the six-week abortion ban, the law gives citizens the right to sue anyone who assists a woman in obtaining an abortion.
This call for action comes after Garland issued a statement Monday saying law enforcement officials were exploring options to challenge the law “to protect the constitutional rights of women and other persons, including access to an abortion.”
Garland said DOJ officials have contacted U.S. attorneys and FBI field offices to “discuss our enforcement authorities,” but did not go into detail on specific enforcement measures.
Similarly, President Joe Biden denounced the Texas law last week, calling it “almost un-American,” and noting that the administration is working with the other agencies to counter the Supreme Court’s move.
“I am directing that Council and the Office of the White House Counsel to launch a whole-of-government effort to respond to this decision, looking specifically to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice to see what steps the Federal Government can take to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions,” Biden said in a statement.
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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/09/08/texas-abortion-law-congress-merrick-garland/.
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