Attorney General Merrick Garland threatened to sue states that have outlawed or restricted abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and said the Justice Department would ask a judge to dismiss a Texas lawsuit seeking to block federal rules requiring doctors to perform abortions in emergencies. “The Justice Department is going to use every tool we have to ensure reproductive freedom,” Garland said on Wednesday, adding that its lawyers would be looking at options including initiating litigation or joining private lawsuits against state abortion restrictions, reports the Wall Street Journal. He didn’t say what legal footing those efforts would have after last month’s ruling eliminated the constitutional right to abortion.
Texas sued the federal government last week after the Department of Health and Human Services said a federal law protecting access to emergency treatment means hospitals must provide an abortion if a doctor deems it necessary to stabilize a patient, even if the procedure isn’t legal under state law. “This could not be more straightforward,” Garland said. “Where that stabilizing treatment is abortion, [hospitals] must provide the abortion.” HHS released guidance to reduce confusion among hospitals and doctors about when an emergency abortion is legal after the Supreme Court’s ruling led to a patchwork of state abortion laws, some with narrow exceptions to protect a pregnant woman’s life. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the federal rules fly in the face of the high court’s ruling. That decision triggered a near-total abortion ban in Texas from the moment of fertilization, tightening access beyond the state’s recent law, in place since September, prohibiting the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy.