House Judiciary Committee Democrats have urged Attorney General Merrick Garland "to use the full power of the Department of Justice" to fight Texas' abortion ban.
Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., and 23 fellow Democrats made their demands in a letter sent to Garland on Tuesday.
The Democrats also recommended that Garland criminally prosecute "would-be vigilantes," if necessary.
"As you know, [the Texas law] effectively bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, well before many women know that they are pregnant," the committee Democrats wrote. "This ban is a clear violation of a woman’s right to choose an abortion prior to fetal viability established nearly fifty years ago under Roe v. Wade.
"SB 8 also creates a private right of action that allows an individual to sue not only reproductive healthcare providers that violate this statutory ban, but any individual who 'aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion' in violation of the ban — all while specifically prohibiting state officials from enforcing the statute.
"This private right of action is the law's most insidious feature."
Garland on Monday said the Justice Department will not tolerate violence against anyone who is trying to obtain an abortion in Texas while federal officials explore options to challenge the new state law.
The Supreme Court last week voted 5-4 to deny an emergency request by abortion and women's health providers for an injunction on enforcement of the ban while litigation continues. The law took effect on Wednesday.
"As Justice [Sonia] Sotomayor wrote in her dissent to the Court’s ruling, '[i]t cannot be the case that a State can evade federal judicial scrutiny by outsourcing the enforcement of unconstitutional laws to its citizenry,'" the Judiciary Committee Democrats wrote in their letter. "Similarly, 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.
"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.'"
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