I have received several questions regarding the legality of Texas’s newly imposed “heartbeat bill,” so I decided to provide context to some of those perplexions as well as address other controversial legislation and its implications on American society.
Q: What does the “heartbeat bill” entail?
A: As soon as a fetal heartbeat has been detected, it would be illegal to receive an abortion in the State of Texas. There are no exceptions for rape or incest. Private citizens are to enforce the law, and if they suspect someone has had a procedure of this kind, then they are able to sue and potentially win compensation of $10,000 for their efforts.
Q: Why did the Department of Justice decide to sue the State of Texas?
A: Attorney General Merrick Garland is a leader of the Department of Justice, and he was appointed by President Joe Biden this year. Yet more specifically, Garland and his team believe that the law violates the outcome of Roe v. Wade and the privacy clause of the U.S. Constitution. He stated that Texas residents would become “bounty hunters” and be involved with “thwarting judicial review.”
Q: Has the national government ever sued a state before?
A: On June 25, 2021, the United States Justice Department sued the State of Georgia because of their new voting law. Georgia’s voting law would limit the mail-in-voting window and require residents to provide additional identification at the ballot box. However, critics assert that the law discriminates against minorities and the lower income population by “adding barriers” in the process.
During the Trump Administration (December 9, 2020), the Justice Department sued the State of Alabama because they allegedly neglected the physical and medical safety of inmates and guards. This lawsuit followed a two year investigation of multiple state prisons, where the department witnessed “inmate on inmate violence, excessive use of force by correctional staff, and unsafe and unsanitary conditions.” The Assistant Attorney General at the time, Eric Dreiband, argued that “the Constitution requires Alabama to make sure that its prisons are safe and humane.”
Q: Are there instances in which a governor’s bill may not be adopted into practice?
A: Yes, but like nearly all legal/political situations, it is easier to prevent legislation before it is signed into law as opposed to appealing it. Recently, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis enacted a ban on school mask mandates, stating that it would interfere with “freedom.” It is to be determined whether or not school districts will be able to enforce these mandates without losing state funding, but it is possible: a judge from Leon County ruled that masks are the “gold standard,” and emphasized the seriousness of the pandemic. DeSantis’s Administration is expected to appeal the decision.
As a reminder, be sure to investigate laws to the fullest, as there can be loopholes or exceptions. It seems like there have been a number of controversial bills passed in the last few months; however, appeals are common, and those who are displeased with the government (eg: Biden Administration) can look ahead to the next president, who may overturn a lot of the previous policies.
Department of Justice: