The move comes after a late Thursday ruling in which a committee for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals chose 2-1 to keep the Texas law, known as S.B. 8, in effect. Anthony Coley, a DOJ spokesman, said the federal government would require the Supreme Court to cancel that vote.
The Texas law bans abortions once a cardiac activity is identified, which is usually around six weeks of pregnancy. It has been in effect since Sept. 1, when the Supreme Court refused to stop it from going into effect in a 5-4 ruling.
However, the court voted without ruling on whether the measure was constitutional. The heartbeat law marks the nation's most significant change of abortion rights in nearly 50 years.
The Justice Department is taking the route that clinics have sought as other legal challenges have failed by going to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, Texas women have gone to abortion clinics in neighboring states, few driving hours through the middle of the night and including patients as young as 12 years old.
"People are scared, confused, and other than very early abortion, have nowhere to turn to access safe, legal abortion unless they are able to travel hundreds of miles to another state," said Jeffrey Hons, president of Planned Parenthood South Texas, whose clinics have stopped offering all abortion services since the law took effect Sept. 1.
The latest blow for clinics came Thursday night when a federal appeals board in New Orleans, in a 2-1 decision, allowed the limitations to remain in effect for a third time in the last several weeks alone.
The court already allowed the restrictions to take effect but did so without ruling on the law's constitutionality.
The Texas Attorney General's Office called Thursday night's ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals a "testament that we are on the right side of the law and life."
A 1992 ruling by the Supreme Court prevented states from banning abortion before viability, the point at which a fetus can survive outside the womb, around 24 weeks of pregnancy. But Texas' law has defeated courts so far because it offloads pressure to private citizens. Anyone who leads a successful lawsuit against an abortion provider for violating the law can require at least $10,000 in damages, which the Biden administration says amounts to a bounty.