After the Justice Department on Monday said it would "protect those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services," Texas groups for abortion rights and against abortion responded.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said the protections fall under a federal law that grants freedom to access a clinical entrance. It’s called the Freedom of Access to Clinical Entrances Act, signed by Bill Clinton in 1994.
The statement from the Department of Justice comes after a new state law banning abortions once cardiac activity is detected took effect last week.
Garland said women seeking abortions within those six weeks should be able to do so with protection from violence, obstruction or intimidation.
News from around the state of Texas.
Gabriela Benazar Acosta of Planned Parenthood said the announcement was welcome news.
“Planned Parenthood welcomes this announcement by the Department of Justice because we believe it’s going to help protect providers and healthcare centers in Texas,” Acosta said.
She said the fear women sometimes feel while seeking care at abortion clinics is very real.
“We do fear violence and we do fear for the integrity of our providers, especially under a law that emboldens people,” she said.
Joe Pojman is executive director for Texas Alliance for Life. While his group works to prevent abortions and supports the Texas legislation, he said acts of violence at abortion centers are not tolerated.
“We absolutely despise anyone who engages in violence against abortion facilities or someone seeking abortion. It’s just plain wrong,” Pojman said.
He said he sees nothing wrong with the FACE Act itself but believed the announcement by the Justice Department was a political tactic.
“This is in federal court but it’s between abortion providers and that state of Texas. The Biden-Harris administration doesn’t have any part to play in this so far,” Pojman said.
Planned Parenthood applauded the statement and hopes there’s more to come.
“We do hope that the administration also intends to use every other tool they have at their disposal,” Acosta said. “The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold SB 8 and not stop it was gutting and devastating for Planned Parenthood. However, we’re still in this fight.”
Garland said federal prosecutors were currently exploring options to challenge the law in Texas.