Legal complaints are stacking up against Florida’s 15-week abortion ban, all of them arguing that the law imposes a narrowly sectarian definition of when life begins upon other elements of the faith community that hold markedly different ideas about the matter.
The trend began in early June, when Barry Silver, a South Florida lawyer and former lawmaker turned rabbi, filed a lawsuit in Leon County Circuit Court challenging the abortion law as violating the religious rights of his Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor in Palm Beach County.
“In Jewish law, abortion is required if necessary to protect the health, mental or physical well-being of the woman, or for many other reasons not permitted under the act. As such, the act prohibits Jewish women from practicing their faith free of government intrusion and thus violates their privacy rights and religious freedom,” Silver’s complaint reads.
Then, on Aug. 2, came separate litigation, organized by the Jayam Law group, based in Chicago, raising similar claims in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court on behalf of three rabbis and clergy associated with United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist, Episcopal, and Buddhist congregations.
These claims, like Silver’s, assert violations of freedom of speech and free exercise and enjoyment of religion under Article I Sections 3 and 4 of the Florida Constitution; the Florida Religious Freedom Restoration Act; and freedom of speech and free exercise of religion under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.
“Since time immemorial, the questions of when a potential fetus or fetus becomes a life and how to value maternal life during a pregnancy have been answered according to religious beliefs and creeds,” one of these lawsuits, filed on behalf of an Episcopal priest in that faith argues.
“HB 5 codifies one of the possible religious viewpoints on the question, and in its operation imposes severe burdens on other believers including Episcopalians and their clergy like plaintiff.” Read more