A Group of House Dems Urge the DOJ to Prosecute Texas’ ‘Heartbeat’ Law Whistleblowers

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Posted: Sep 10, 2021 5:15 PM
A Group of House Dems Urge the DOJ to Prosecute Texas’ ‘Heartbeat’ Law Whistleblowers

Source: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

This week, a group of House Democrats urged the Department of Justice to prosecute “would-be vigilantes” who plan to enforce S.B. 8, a new law in Texas that bans abortions after fetal heartbeat detection.

In the letter, led by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), 24 Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee called 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.” This includes prosecuting citizens who plan to enforce the ‘heartbeat’ law. As we reported, S.B. 8 allows citizens to pursue legal action against individuals who provide an illegal abortion or abet a woman seeking an illegal abortion in the state. The letter notes that individuals who successfully bring a lawsuit under S.B. 8 can be rewarded up to $10,000.

“We write to ask you to use the full power of the Department of Justice to defend a woman’s constitutional right to choose an abortion, a right now under assault by Texas Senate Bill 8,” the letter reads. “Because the Department cannot permit the second largest state in the Nation to deprive women of their constitutional rights by outsourcing the enforcement of SB 8 to private individuals, we urge you 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 that blatantly unconstitutional law.” 

Later on in the letter, the representatives reiterated their description of pro-life whistleblowers, calling them “vigilante[s] seeking a payday from the state.” Additionally, they described the new law as “perverse,” and “chilling,” mentioning how tip lines have been implemented inviting citizens to provide leads on those breaking the law.

“This perverse system has not only a chilling effect on a deeply private decision making process that is essential to a woman’s personal autonomy, but is also just plain chilling. And our fears are hardly theoretical. Anti-abortion groups in Texas have already begun setting up anonymous tip lines to allow individuals to report on their fellow citizens. Other states are preparing to enact similarly dangerous laws,” the letter continues. “[T]he 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.”

The letter came one day after Garland issued a statement saying the DOJ would explore all options to challenge S.B. 8. Yesterday, Garland announced that the DOJ is filing a federal lawsuit against Texas. President Biden also promised a “whole-of-government” approach to fight the new legislation.

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