Justice Department will ask Supreme Court to block Texas abortion law for now

Pro-choice activists hold signs outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Oct. 4, 2021.

Stefani Reynolds | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Department of Justice said Friday it will ask the Supreme Court to effectively block the enforcement of a restrictive Texas abortion law while legal disputes play out.

That law, which bans most abortions after as early as six weeks of pregnancy and empowers private citizens to sue anyone who “aids or abets” in the procedure, took effect Sept. 1 after the high court refused to grant an emergency request to stop it. Nearly a day later, in a 5-4 ruling issued late at night, the court, without hearing arguments in the case, voted down the bid for an injunction.

The DOJ filed a lawsuit in Texas shortly thereafter, arguing that the law, S.B. 8, “insults the rule of law” and violates the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision, Roe v. Wade, which protects the right to an abortion before fetal viability, which is generally around 22 weeks or later.

Earlier in October, a federal judge granted the DOJ’s bid to temporarily block enforcement of the law, saying, “this Court will not sanction one more day of this offensive deprivation of such an important right.”

But the law was allowed to go back into effect after that judge’s ruling was appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

“The Justice Department intends to ask the Supreme Court to vacate the Fifth Circuit’s stay of the preliminary injunction against Texas Senate Bill 8,” spokesman Anthony Coley said in a statement.

Asked when that request would be filed, Coley told CNBC he “should have a better sense on Monday.”

Separately, a group of abortion providers and advocates in late September asked the Supreme Court to quickly review their challenge to the Texas law, even though a lower court had yet to deliver a final ruling on the issue.

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