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DOJ pledges law enforcement support to abortion clinics in Texas as it 'urgently explores all options' to challenge new pro-life law

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The Justice Department this week vowed federal law enforcement support to abortion clinics and to women seeking abortions in Texas following the passage of the state's new pro-life law.

What are the details?

Texas's new law, which bars abortions after fetal cardiac activity is detected — something that typically occurs at six weeks' gestation — went into effect last Wednesday after the Supreme Court refused an emergency request to block it.

After its implementation, Democrats across the state and country immediately decried the law as unconstitutional and demanded that the federal government intervene.

In a statement issued Monday, Attorney General Merrick Garland appeared to answer the call, announcing that the Justice Department will step up efforts to "protect" abortion seekers via the FACE Act while continuing to seek additional ways to confront the state legislation.

"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," the attorney general said.

The FACE Act of 1994 "prohibits the use or threat of force and physical obstruction that injures, intimidates, or interferes with a person seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services."

What else?

The department's mention of the act is in direct reference to the Texas law's mechanism for enforcement.

According to the legislation, the ban will not be enforced by the state. Rather, private citizens are empowered to enforce it by filing civil lawsuits against doctors who perform an abortion after six weeks or against anyone who "aids or abets" the procedure.

In the statement, Garland warned that "the department will provide support from federal law enforcement when an abortion clinic or reproductive health center is under attack."

The attorney general added that his department has already "reached out to U.S. Attorneys' Offices and FBI field offices in Texas and across the country to discuss our enforcement authorities."

"We will not tolerate violence against those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services," he noted.

It remains to be seen how exactly the Justice Department will enforce the FACE Act or what other avenues it pursues in an effort to thwart the legislation. Certainly, the Texas abortion ban does not condone or promote violence against abortion clinics or abortion seekers, though Democrats have expressed fear that such violence will be enacted.

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