In a statement released on Tuesday, Attorney General Merrick B Garland assured women that Texas abortions and clinics would be protected from attacks, prompting many caveats and even more questions.
The address from the Attorney General came days after Texas passed the strictest ban on abortion in the entire country, limiting the legality of the procedure to before cardiac activity. Usually occurring six weeks after pregnancy, most women at the time do not even know that they are pregnant before cardiac activity. After Texas passed “The Heartbeat Act” last week, the near-complete right to an abortion under Roe v. Wade was stripped away from Texas women.
“We will not tolerate violence against those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services,” Merrick B Garland said in an official statement. “The department will provide support from federal law enforcement when an abortion clinic or reproductive health center is under attack.”
Speaking about the 1994 FACE Act, Merrick B Garland said that the law prohibits the use or threat of violence against a person seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services. Anticipating potential violence in the state following the Texas ban, Attorney General Merrick B Garland’s statement seemed to be in an attempt to ease tension and unrest.
“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,” the statement read.
Though the government may be able to stop people from attacking women trying to enter a clinic, the six weeks would still be in effect. The Texas bill also rewards anyone who successfully sues someone who provides an abortion after the six-week ban, as well as anyone who provided financial support or even transported the person to the clinic.
What gets lost in a lot of coverage of reproductive health services and Planned Parenthood clinics, however, are the other services offered besides abortion procedures. Many of these clinics are able to help women scan for breast and ovarian cancers, test for sexually transmitted diseases, and even help people who want to start a family and are having difficulty getting pregnant.
Without challenging the law, Merrick B Garland’s statement hoped to dispel any future violence by basically urging people to leave the clinics alone. According to The New York Times, there’s a concern that activists are waiting at clinics and watching who goes in and out. This kind of attention could result in many lawsuits and accusations against clinics and their patients who are seeking help for completely different medical reasons than abortion.
Nevertheless, Merrick B Garland’s statement also did not confirm what such protections from the department would even look like, though he said that he had contacted the FBI in Texas.
Last week, President Biden called the Texas abortion ban an, “unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights.”
“Complete strangers will now be empowered to inject themselves in the most private and personal health decisions faced by women,” he said, adding that the ban was “a bizarre scheme that unleashes unconstitutional chaos and empowers self-anointed enforcers to have devastating impacts.”
Vice President Kamala Harris echoed his words, stating that, “This decision is not the last word on Roe v. Wade, and we will not stand by and allow our nation to go back to the days of back-alley abortions.”
According to the Vice President, “We will use every lever of our Administration to defend the right to safe and legal abortion—and to strengthen that right.”