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Oregon Attorney General Signs Onto Brief Supporting Lawsuit Against Texas Abortion Ban

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum joined 23 other states in their support of the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the ban.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. | OREGON DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
September 16, 2021

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum joined the chief legal officers of 23 other states in signing onto a brief issued Wednesday supporting the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Texas’ ban on abortions after six weeks.

The brief filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Western Texas calls for a pre-trial injunction to immediately stop the new law which went into effect Sept. 1.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland filed suit against the state of Texas on Sept. 9, arguing the law violates the supremacy clause and Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, among other legal precedents.

“This kind of scheme to nullify the Constitution of the United States is one that all Americans – whatever their politics or party – should fear,” Garland said. “If it prevails, it may become a model for action in other areas, by other states, and with respect to other constitutional rights and judicial precedents.”

Rosenblum issued a press release Wednesday stating that she views the new law as “unequivocally unconstitutional.”

“We are at a crucial moment in the fight to keep abortion accessible, safe and legal,” Rosenblum said in her statement. “As Oregon’s attorney general, I am glad to be able to join this national fight for bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom.”

The Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 8 — known colloquially as the Texas Heartbeat Act — back in March, and it was signed into law by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on May 19. The bill allows anyone to bring a lawsuit against someone who performs or induces an abortion after “cardiac activity” can be detected in an embryo, which is typically around six weeks of pregnancy.

Rosenblum said that by turning private citizens into abortion bounty hunters, the state of Texas is ignoring 50 years of precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“It is shocking that Texas would seek to skirt the constitution so blatantly,” she said.

The brief filed Wednesday by Massachusetts AG Maura Healey argues that the Texas law’s structure of private enforcement essentially creates a ban on constitutionally protected activity. It also argues that the private enforcement mechanism does not shield the state from judicial review — a key factor lawmakers sought to include when crafting the legislation in order to protect Texas from being sued over it.

According to Rosenblum’s statement, the pre-trial injunction seeks to stop the harm that SB 8 is causing the people Texas and in nearby states, where clinics have reported a rise in calls from Texas patients seeking abortions.

“This rise in abortion caseloads in other states from Texas patients and the increase in needed travel for patients could result in many people – especially low-income people – being unable to receive the care they need,” the statement said. “The law also threatens the many people who help patients in Texas obtain access to an abortion by creating more than $10,000 in potential liability for anyone who so much as gives a patient a ride to a provider or otherwise helps.”

In addition to Rosenblum, the brief was also signed by the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

This story was originally published by Oregon Public Broadcasting.