WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice announced Monday it would protect people's access to abortion in Texas despite a new state law that bans the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy.
Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a statement saying that the agency would "continue to protect those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services pursuant to our criminal and civil enforcement" of a law known as the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.
"The department will provide support from federal law enforcement when an abortion clinic or reproductive health center is under attack," Garland said. "We have reached out to U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and FBI field offices in Texas and across the country to discuss our enforcement authorities."
The statements comes days after the Supreme Court allowed Texas' controversial abortion law to take effect. The law, one of the most restrictive in the country, bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually around six weeks of pregnancy and before many people realize they are pregnant. There are no exemptions in cases of rape or incest.
The Texas law also allows private citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone involved in "aiding and abetting" abortions.
Abortion providers say the legislation would restrict 85% of abortion procedures in Texas. The law is one of the most direct challenges on the boundaries of the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.
Garland said the department would "not tolerate violence against those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services, physical obstruction or property damage in violation" of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which prohibits the use or threat of force and physical obstruction that injures, intimidates, or interferes with a person seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services.
The FACE Act also prohibits intentional property damage of a facility providing reproductive health services.
President Joe Biden said last week he would launch a "whole-of-government effort" in response to the Supreme Court's decision to not block the law, directing the Gender Policy Council and the White House legal team to work with federal agencies to determine what legal tools are available to ensure women have access to safe and legal abortions.
Contributing: Mabinty Quarshie, USA TODAY