US government sues Texas over abortion ban

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President Joe Biden's administration is suing Texas, seeking to block enforcement of a new law almost entirely banning abortion in the state.

The US Supreme Court last week let stand the Texas law banning abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy, before many woman realise they are pregnant.

Although that decision did not address the constitutionality of the Texas law, it nevertheless represented a major victory for social conservatives who have been trying to ban abortion since the court's 1973 Roe v Wade decision established the constitutional right to the procedure.

Attorney-General Merrick Garland called the Texas law "clearly unconstitutional".

"This kind of scheme to nullify the Constitution of the United States is one that all Americans, whatever their politics or party, should fear," Garland said on Thursday.

"If it prevails, it may become a model for action in other areas by other states."

The Texas law relies on private citizens to enforce it by filing civil lawsuits against people who help a woman obtain an abortion after six weeks, whether that be a doctor who performs the procedure or a cabbie who drives a woman to a clinic.

The law allows people who sue to receive bounties of at least $US10,000 ($A13,500) and makes no exceptions in cases of rape or incest, although there are some very narrowly defined exemptions for the mother's health.

Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott defended the law this week, saying the state would "eliminate all rapists".

"Texas passed a law that ensures that the life of every child with a heartbeat will be spared from the ravages of abortion," Abbott spokeswoman Renae Eze said in a statement.

"We are confident that the courts will uphold and protect that right to life."

The Supreme Court's decision left abortion-rights activists worried the court, on which conservatives hold a 6-3 majority, may be open to overturning Roe when it hears a case involving a Mississippi abortion ban later this year.

A majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling. Some 52 per cent said it should be legal in most or all cases, with just 36 per cent saying it should be illegal in most or all cases.

But it remains a deeply polarising issue, with a majority of Democrats supporting abortion rights and a majority of Republicans opposing them.

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