September 15, 2021
On September 14, 2021, the DOJ filed an emergency motion in federal court asking that enforcement of Texas’s ban on abortions after six weeks be temporarily or preliminarily enjoined. In its motion, the DOJ noted that “[t]he devastating effects warned of in the pre-enforcement litigation immediately became a reality for patients and providers in Texas.” The DOJ established the factual basis for its motion by describing a litany of harrowing experiences suffered by Texas women as a direct result of the anti-abortion law. Setting forth the dire state of affairs in Texas, the DOJ wrote: “Women are being forced to travel hundreds—and sometimes thousands—of miles to obtain an abortion under harrowing circumstances in the middle of a COVID surge. . . . One patient ‘got in her car at midnight in Texas so that she could drive through the night and make it to Oklahoma in the morning for her abortion appointment, and then she had to turn around the same day to travel back to Texas.’ Patients from Texas are traveling sometimes five to eight hours each way to get to a health center in Oklahoma, . . . and on average patients are traveling 650 miles each way to reach abortion clinics in the southwest . . . (detailing trips of 790 miles, 930 miles, 1000 miles each way). One minor, who was raped by a family member, traveled eight hours from Galveston to Oklahoma to get an abortion, . . . and other survivors of sexual assault have to bear the additional burden of taking time off work and arranging childcare because abortions are not available in Texas[.] . . . Another patient facing violence at the hands of her husband is ‘discreetly attempting to leave Texas without her husband finding out,’ and is ‘desperate’ and ‘selling personal items’ to scrape together the funds needed for an out-of-state abortion. . . . . Another ‘patient traveled six hours (one way) to get to Oklahoma and said she drove alone because she was worried’ that asking someone to ‘accompany her’ would subject that person to liability under S.B. 8. . . . In one day, one patient drove a 1000 mile round trip alone ‘because she didn’t have paid time off work and couldn’t afford’ to miss her shift.’ In addition to these extreme hardships and many others included in the DOJ motion, the DOJ reached the unavoidable conclusion that: “Not only has S.B. 8 imperiled the rights of Texas residents; it has had an extreme impact on the rights of women in other states, including in Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico. Since S.B. 8 took effect, clinics in Tulsa and Oklahoma City have ‘seen an overall staggering 646% increase of Texan patients’ as compared to the first six months of the year.”
The following article published in Axios on September 15, 2021, summarizes the legal and political significance of the motion.
Why it matters: The action marks an escalation by the Biden administration in its challenge on the constitutionality of the GOP-led state’s restrictive new law, after the DOJ filed a lawsuit last week following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, in a 5-4 vote, to allow the ban to remain in place.
- The law that took effect on Sept. 1 following the ruling is the most restrictive abortion ban allowed to be enforced since the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
What they’re saying: The DOJ argues in its filing, submitted to the U.S. District Court in Austin, Texas, that the law, known as Senate Bill 8, was passed “to prevent women from exercising their constitutional rights.”
- “This relief is necessary to protect the constitutional rights of women in Texas and the sovereign interest of the United States,” the statement added.
The full text of the DOJ’s emergency motion can be viewed in your browser by clicking on the link below titled “U.S. v. Texas Emergency Motion.” Other links allow the full text to be downloaded to your device and shared on Twitter and Facebook.