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Pro-choice protesters march down Congress Avenue at a protest outside the Texas state Capitol on May 29, 2021, in Austin, Texas. Photo: Sergio Flores/Getty Images 

The Justice Department has sued Texas over its new law banning abortions after six weeks, Attorney General Merrick Garland said in an announcement Thursday, calling the law "clearly unconstitutional."

Driving the news: The lawsuit comes after Garland vowed to "protect those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services," adding that "[w]e will not tolerate violence against those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services."

  • The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 vote, allowed Texas' Senate Bill 8 to go into effect earlier this month. The court's three liberal justices — Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer — along with Chief Justice John Roberts dissented.

Details: "Texas enacted S.B. 8 in open defiance of the Constitution," the DOJ said in their complaint.

  • The DOJ argues that Texas "adopted an unprecedented scheme 'to insulate the State from responsibility'" by allowing private citizens to enforce the law because state officials allegedly know that the law "violates the Constitution."
  • "It takes little imagination to discern Texas’s goal — to make it too risky for an abortion clinic to operate in the State, thereby preventing women throughout Texas from exercising their constitutional rights, while simultaneously thwarting judicial review," it adds.
  • "The United States therefore seeks a declaratory judgment that S.B. 8 is invalid" and it "also seeks an order preliminarily and permanently enjoining the State of Texas, including its officers, employees, and agents, including private parties who would bring suit under the law, from implementing or enforcing S.B. 8."

What they're saying: Garland cited the 1992 Supreme Court case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld the right to an abortion, by saying: "Regardless of whether exceptions are made for particular circumstances, a state may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy."

  • When asked about other states that would follow Texas' example to restrict abortion, Garland responded, "If another state uses the same kind of provisions to deprive its citizens of their constitutional rights and in particular to deprive their citizens with the ability to seek immediate review, we will bring the same kind of lawsuit."

The big picture: Other states' attempts to enact similar abortion bans have often been struck down by federal or state courts. However, the Texas law differs because it gives private citizens the power to enforce the law instead of the state.

  • Roberts called the move "not only unusual, but unprecedented," adding that he would have temporarily blocked the law to allow lower courts to debate whether Texas "can avoid responsibility for its laws in such a manner."
  • "This kind of scheme to nullify the Constitution of the United States is one that all Americans, whatever their politics or party, should fear. If it prevails, it may become a model for action, in other areas, by other states and with respect to other constitutional rights and judicial precedents," Garland said.

Of note: The law, which is the most restrictive abortion ban in the U.S., is already being challenged by several reproductive rights groups.

Read the DOJ's complaint here:

Go deeper:

Go deeper

North Carolina judges strike down state’s voter ID law as racially biased

Photo: Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images

North Carolina judges ruled Friday that the state's latest photo identification voter law is racially biased and discriminates against Black voters, violating their equal protections.

Why it matters: This is the second time North Carolina has had a voter ID law overturned by the courts. In 2016, a federal appeals court blocked a similar 2013 law because it violated the Constitution and targeted Black voters with "almost surgical precision."

Mike Allen, author of AM
45 mins ago - Technology

Axios interview: Facebook to try for more transparency

Nick Clegg last year. Photo: Matthew Sobocinski/USA Today via Reuters

Nick Clegg, Facebook's vice president of global affairs, tells me the company will try to provide more data to outside researchers to scrutinize the health of activity on Facebook and Instagram, following The Wall Street Journal's brutal look at internal documents.

Driving the news: Clegg didn't say that in his public response to the series. So I called him to push for what Facebook will actually do differently given the new dangers raised by The Journal.

The Exvangelicals

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Even as evangelicals maintain their position as the most popular religion in the U.S., a movement of self-described "exvangelicals" is breaking away, using social media to engage tens of thousands of former faithful.

The big picture: Donald Trump's presidency, as well as movements around LGBTQ rights, #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, drew more Americans into evangelical churches while also pushing some existing members away.