Washington, D.C. – Following the enactment of Texas Law SB 8, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) led 23 Committee Democrats in a letter calling on Attorney General Merrick Garland to use the full force of the Department of Justice to defend a woman’s constitutional right to choose an abortion.
Members also urged the Attorney General to take legal action up to and including the criminal prosecution of would-be vigilantes attempting to use the private right of action established by SB 8. The letter was issued following Attorney General Garland’s confirmation yesterday that the Department of Justice was exploring “all options” to protect those seeking reproductive health services in Texas.
In their letter, the Members wrote:
“As Justice Sotomayor wrote in her dissent to the Court’s ruling, ‘[i]t cannot be the case that a State can evade federal judicial scrutiny by outsourcing the enforcement of unconstitutional laws to its citizenry.’ Similarly, the Department of Justice cannot permit private individuals seeking to deprive women of the constitutional right to choose an abortion to escape scrutiny under existing federal law simply because they attempt to do so under the color of state law. Indeed, the Department is fully empowered to prosecute any individual who attempts, ‘under color of any law,’ to deprive a United States citizen of ‘any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution.’
In addition to Chairman Nadler, the letter was signed by Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Hank Johnson (D-GA), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Karen Bass (D-CA), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), David N. Cicilline (D-RI), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Val Demings (D-FL), Lou Correa (D-CA), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), Sylvia R. Garcia (D-TX), Joe Neguse (D-CO), Lucy McBath (D-GA), Greg Stanton (D-AZ), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Mondaire Jones (D-NY), and Deborah Ross (D-NC).
On Sunday, Attorney General Garland issued the following statement regarding the Texas Law SB 8:
“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, 18 U.S.C. § 248.
“The FACE Act 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. It also prohibits intentional property damage of a facility providing reproductive health services. The department has consistently obtained criminal and civil remedies for violations of the FACE Act since it was signed into law in 1994, and it will continue to do so now.
“The department will provide support from federal law enforcement when an abortion clinic or reproductive health center is under attack. We have 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, physical obstruction or property damage in violation of the FACE Act.”
The full text of the Democrats’ letter to Attorney General Garland can be found here.