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Justice Department says it will protect abortion seekers and clinics in Texas

Under the FACE act, those who obstruct or use force to interfere with a person seeking reproductive health services can be fined up to $100,000.

Justice Department says it will protect abortion seekers and clinics in Texas
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - OCTOBER 21: Abortion-rights demonstrators march ahead of a meeting of the Stormont Assembly on abortion rights and gay marriage on October 21, 2019, in Belfast, United Kingdom. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

The Justice Department has vowed to protect the safety of the people seeking abortions in Texas, in the wake of a restrictive law being passed in the state. Attorney General Merrick Garland confirmed that the department was looking at options to challenge the state’s new anti-abortion law and added that the department would not tolerate violence against reproductive health service providers, reported The Huffington Post. The new law passed last week lets private citizens sue anyone who helps someone get an abortion. A $10,000 "bounty" would be placed on those who help an individual get an abortion after six weeks gestation when most people don't even realize they are pregnant. The law circumvents the rights established under Roe v. Wade and the US Supreme court refused to block the law with a majority of 5-4. 



“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,” said Garland in a statement. Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE), is a federal law enacted in 1994 that bans physically obstructing or using the threat of force to injure, intimidate or interfere with a person seeking reproductive health services. It also prohibits intentional property damage at abortion clinics and other reproductive health centers. Under the FACE Act, offenders can be fined up to $100,000. "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," said Garland. 




The attorney general also confirmed that it would provide federal law enforcement support 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,” Garland said. “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.” It remains to be seen how effective the FACE Act will be, especially if abortion clinics in the state are forced to shut with women seeking abortions out of state or trying dangerous unsafe options at home. Last week, Garland said the Justice Department is “evaluating all options to protect the constitutional rights of women, including access to abortion.” 


The law is likely to create abortion vigilantes and eventually lead of intimidation of abortion clinics. As we reported, Nina Ginsberg, a criminal defense attorney, said, "It’s astounding, because what it is doing is deputizing private citizens to become prosecutors in a way." "The law is really unprecedented in the sense that it bans abortion, but then has no government criminal penalties to enforce the law," stated Brigitte Amiri, the deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project.  


The restrictive anti-abortion has been heavily criticized. United Nations has come down heavily on the new law, stating that it violates international law by denying women control over their own bodies. Melissa Upreti, the chair of the UN’s working group on discrimination against women and girls, described the law as “structural sex and gender-based discrimination at its worst,” reported The Guardian. Upreti warned that people will be forced to seek out unsafe procedures. “This new law will make abortion unsafe and deadly, and create a whole new set of risks for women and girls. It is profoundly discriminatory and violates a number of rights guaranteed under international law,” said Upreti. She added that the law "has not only taken Texas backward, but in the eyes of the international community, it has taken the entire country backward,” said Upreti.

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