Attorney General Merrick Garland announces a lawsuit to block the enforcement of new Texas law that bans most abortions at the Justice Department in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department plans to file a lawsuit against Texas over its restrictive anti-abortion law that critics say is unconstitutional and has brought a halt to women’s reproductive rights in the state, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The law, known as Texas Senate Bill 8, bans abortions after six weeks and deputizes citizens to sue people who perform or aid in the procedure, allowing them to collect at least $10,000 and legal fees if they succeed in court.

Attorney General Merrick Garland plans to hold a news conference Thursday afternoon to announce the lawsuit, along with Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco and Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, the department announced.

It wasn’t immediately clear on what grounds the Justice Department would base the lawsuit.

The Supreme Court refused last week to block the law as requested by abortion providers in Texas while the measure is challenged in lower courts.

Garland said in a statement Monday the department was urgently exploring all options to challenge the Texas law. The department will use powers under the so-called FACE Act to provide support from federal law enforcement when an abortion clinic or reproductive health center is under attack, Garland said.

“We will not tolerate violence against those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services, physical obstruction or property damage in violation of the FACE Act,” Garland said.

President Joe Biden said last week he believed the DOJ may have some ability to “limit” the legislation, without providing details. He called the law an “assault” on abortion rights.

Story by Chris Strohm, Bloomberg News