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Biden administration set to sue Texas over new abortion law

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is preparing to sue Texas over its new law banning most abortions, people familiar with the matter said, an action that would set off a federal-state clash at a time when the future of abortion rights becomes an ever-more-pressing question before the courts.

The Justice Department could file a lawsuit as soon as Thursday, the people said, adding that the timing could be pushed back. The Biden administration has faced pressure from Democrats and abortion-rights groups to take action to stop the Texas restrictions after the Supreme Court last week allowed them to take effect.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said Monday that the Justice Department was urgently exploring all of its options, which legal experts said could include attempting to strip federal funding and trying to determine whether there are federal facilities within the state that could provide abortions. Those experts warned, however, that novel provisions in the law, which prohibits most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, could make it harder for the federal government to prevail in a lawsuit.

In writing the Texas Heartbeat Act, known as SB 8, lawmakers assigned enforcement to private parties giving them an incentive by authorizing damages of $10,000 or more if they successfully sued a defendant they accused of performing or aiding in an abortion. The law puts the enforcement powers in the hands of private citizens, rather than state or local officials, leaving its opponents without obvious individuals to sue.

The Justice Department is expected to pursue an argument that the Texas law illegally interferes with federal interests, one of the people said. The precise nature of those arguments couldn’t immediately be learned.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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