“While the Justice Department urgently explores all options to challenge Texas SB8 in order to protect the constitutional rights of women and other persons, including access to an abortion, we will continue to protect those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services pursuant to our criminal and civil enforcement of the FACE Act,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement Monday.
The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, signed into law in 1994, prohibits physical obstruction or force that "injures, intimidates, or interferes with a person seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services," the Department of Justice said. It also prohibits intentional property damage of facilities providing such services.
“The department will provide support from federal law enforcement when an abortion clinic or reproductive health center is under attack. We have reached out to U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and FBI field offices in Texas and across the country to discuss our enforcement authorities,” Garland said. “We will not tolerate violence against those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services, physical obstruction or property damage in violation of the FACE Act.”
The Texas law bans abortion procedures if medical workers have "detected a fetal heartbeat for the unborn child," but it gives exemptions associated with medical emergencies. It also allows people to file civil lawsuits against anyone who provides abortions or "aids or abets" abortions after a heartbeat is identified.
The Supreme Court last week rejected an emergency call to hinder the bill from going into effect. Justices in the majority said that their order “is not based on any conclusion about the constitutionality of Texas’s law, and in no way limits other procedurally proper challenges to the Texas law.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she will present a bill that would enshrine into federal law sweeping protections for abortion procedures, basically codifying the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, when Congress returns later this month.