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U.S. Justice Dept. to ask Supreme Court to put Texas abortion law on hold

The seal of the United States Department of Justice is seen on the building exterior of the United States Attorney's Office of the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., August 17, 2020.
REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

President Joe Biden’s administration on Friday said it will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to block a restrictive Texas law that imposes a near-total ban on abortion after a federal appeals court reinstated the law.

The U.S. Justice Department will request the Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, to reverse the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to lift a judge’s order blocking the law, while litigation over the dispute continues, a spokesman said.

The Texas measure, which bans abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy, took effect on Sept. 1. It makes an exception for a documented medical emergency but not for cases of rape or incest.

The law is unusual in that it gives private citizens the power to enforce it by enabling them to sue anyone who performs or assists a woman in getting an abortion after cardiac activity is detected in the embryo. That feature has helped shield the law from being immediately blocked as it made it more difficult to directly sue the state.

Critics of the law have said this provision lets people act as anti-abortion bounty hunters.

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