The 24 attorneys general, all Democrats, said the new law is “in direct contravention of nearly a half century of Supreme Court precedent” and has “banned nearly all pre-viability abortions within its borders.”
The law bans most abortions by requiring doctors to test for a fetal heartbeat before carrying out the termination of an unborn child. If a heartbeat is detected, the doctor is barred from doing an abortion unless he or she deems the situation a medical emergency.
The measure blocks state officials from enforcement. Instead, private citizens can sue doctors or people who allegedly aid in illegal abortions if they believe one occurred.
The two dozen attorneys general, led by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy, say (pdf) they have a responsibility to protect clinicians who work in their states and are licensed in other states and to ensure each state abides by constitutional obligations because reducing access to abortion in one state can lead to people seeking the procedure in other states, which could burden healthcare systems and result in limited access for the states’ own residents.
They cited a story from a Texas publication that alleged that was already happening in New Mexico because of the Texas law.
In addition, the officials in the filing expressed concern about people in their states who may be subject to lawsuits for providing support to family or friends who go on to get an abortion in Texas and residents who temporarily reside in Texas, such as students, who want to get an abortion there.
“Amici States have a significant interest in protecting our residents from vexatious and costly litigation, particularly when such litigation is predicated on nothing more than their involvement in constitutionally protected activity,” the attorneys general wrote.
Every Democrat attorney general signed onto the amicus brief except for Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, whose spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The brief came in support of the Department of Justice, which filed a lawsuit last week seeking to block the Texas law because officials argue it is unconstitutional under Supreme Court rulings like Roe v. Wade.
Complicating the matter, though, is the Supreme Court deciding earlier this month not to immediately stop the law from taking effect. In a narrow 5–4 ruling, the majority said abortion providers in a separate lawsuit had not met their burden in their bid for a preliminary injunction.
The Department of Justice also on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to block the law until it makes a final decision on it.
Abortion providers say approximately 85 to 90 percent of abortions are not allowed to be carried out under the law, which the Republican-controlled Texas legislature passed before it was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott.
Republican attorneys general have not yet weighed in on the case, USA v. Texas, which is being defended by Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton.