Attorney General Merrick Garland said Friday that violence won’t be tolerated in the wake of the high court overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, which gave women a national right to abortion — but he stressed the First Amendment protects peaceful protesting.
“The Supreme Court has eliminated an established right that has been an essential component of women’s liberty for half a century – a right that has safeguarded women’s ability to participate fully and equally in society,” he said.
Mr. Garland also noted that federal workers can still help women obtain reproductive healthcare.
He said that federal agencies can provide those services in accordance with federal law.
“Federal employees who carry out their duties by providing such services must be allowed to do so free from the threat of liability. It is the Department’s longstanding position that States generally may not impose criminal or civil liability on federal employees who perform their duties in a manner authorized by federal law. Additionally, the Department’s Office of Legal Counsel has determined that federal employees engaging in such conduct would not violate the Assimilative Crimes Act and could not be prosecuted by the federal government under that law,” he said.
“The Justice Department is prepared to assist agencies in resolving any questions about the scope of their authority to provide reproductive care,” Mr. Garland added.
His comments come after progressive groups have promised revenge after the court’s ruling that upended a national right to abortion.
The justices were considering Mississippi’s state law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Mississippi officials argued that Roe‘s holding that abortion is a constitutional right should be overturned because it’s outdated. The state said the viability standard for the fetus set out in Roe was unclear, and Mississippi had an interest in banning abortions after 15 weeks to protect women’s health and that of unborn children.
The legal challenge to the restrictions was brought by Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the state’s only abortion clinic, and a doctor who provides abortions. According to court papers, the clinic had provided abortions up to 16 weeks of gestation.
They challenged the state’s Gestational Age Act, enacted in 2018. The law, which its authors intended specifically to challenge Roe‘s guidelines, banned abortions after 15 weeks unless there is a medical emergency or severe abnormality in the fetus.
The abortion providers told the court in their filing that the state’s interest in the woman’s health and children doesn’t begin until viability occurs, “months” after the 15-week marker set in the law.
In the 6 to 3 ruling, the high court said the right to abortion is not explicit in the Constitution and the issue should return to state legislatures.
Pro-choice protesters, enraged by the leak, have shown up outside the houses of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett and Samuel A. Alito Jr., who authored the leaked opinion. One California man traveled to Justice Kavanaugh’s suburban Maryland home with a plan to murder him. He was stopped outside the justice’s home by authorities.
It was the first time a full draft opinion was leaked in the Supreme Court‘s 233-year history.
• Alex Swoyer can be reached at email@example.com.
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