The Texas law, one of the strictest in the country, bans abortions when cardiac activity is detected, which happens at around six weeks of pregnancy, a time when women may not yet know they are pregnant. It also makes no exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.
The law immediately stopped most abortions in Texas when it went into effect at the start of September, after the Supreme Court declined to intervene. Demand at clinics in nearby states like Oklahoma has surged as women in Texas seeking abortions after six weeks of pregnancy have been forced to travel out of state.
The Justice Department is suing Texas over the law’s unique enforcement mechanism, which it claims violates the Constitution by using private parties to enforce the law, rather than the state. This lets Texas technically comply with court decisions that say states may not prohibit abortion.
The law encourages private parties to bring lawsuits against anyone accused of performing or aiding in an abortion that violates the statute by granting $10,000 to plaintiffs that successfully sue.
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland called the enforcement mechanism an “unprecedented” effort to bar women from their constitutionally protected right to have an abortion.