State Watch

24 Democratic AGs back Biden bid to block Texas abortion law

Protesters rally in Austin against Texas's restrictive abortion law in May 2021
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Two dozen Democratic attorneys general on Wednesday threw their weight behind the Biden administration’s effort to block Texas’s new abortion law.

In an amicus brief, the group argued that Texas’s restrictive measure lies in “direct contravention” of Supreme Court precedent tracing back to its 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which first recognized a constitutional right to abortion.

“Today, virtually no one can obtain an abortion in Texas,” read the brief, which was filed in an Austin-based federal court. “In order to obtain abortion care, patients now have to travel out-of-state, which makes abortion for many people too difficult, too time-intensive, and too costly.”

Led by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy, the state officials said they sought to defend the interests of their residents who may require an abortion while in Texas, a constituency that could include out-of-state students, workers or visitors.

The group also warned that Texans who are forced to travel for the procedure because of the new law could burden the health systems of other states, noting that “this phenomenon is already occurring.”

“In New Mexico, for example, an influx of patients from Texas has already strained provider resources and made it more difficult for New Mexico residents to receive timely care,” they wrote. “Similar impacts are being seen or expected to be seen in other Amici States, including California, Colorado, Illinois, and Nevada.”

The attorneys general of those affected states were among the two dozen who joined the amicus brief.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller (D) was the only Democratic state AG who didn’t sign the amicus brief. Miller is required under a 2019 deal to get the governor’s approval before signing onto an amicus brief, but Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) would not consent to his joining the other Democratic officials in opposing Texas’s new abortion ban, an aide to Miller said.

Wednesday’s court filing comes after the Department of Justice (DOJ), on behalf of the Biden administration, filed a lawsuit last week to invalidate the new Texas law that bans abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, typically around six weeks.

More recently, the DOJ on Tuesday filed an emergency request asking the court to temporarily block the law while the legal challenge plays out in court.

The Texas law at issue was signed in May by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and took effect earlier this month. It gives enforcement authority to private citizens, allowing them to sue those who perform an abortion or aid a woman receiving one in violation of the measure, and provides for $10,000 for a successful lawsuit.

An estimated 85 to 90 percent of women who get an abortion in Texas are at least six weeks into their pregnancy, the time by which the new law is typically triggered. The measure is expected to disproportionately affect teens, people of color and women living in rural areas.

The Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote this month turned down an emergency request from abortion providers to block the measure from taking effect.

Updated at 2:37 p.m.

Tags Abortion amicus brief Austin Greg Abbott Iowa Justice Department Massachusetts New Mexico SB 8 Texas Texas abortion law

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