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Florida’s 15-week abortion law faces a religious challenge

A South Florida Jewish congregation is challenging the abortion restriction legislation signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Credit: AP
FILE - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis holds up a 15-week abortion ban law after signing it on April 14, 2022, in Kissimmee, Fla. Reproductive health providers sued Florida on Wednesday, June 1, 2022, alleging that the law violates a provision in the state constitution guaranteeing a person’s right to privacy, “including the right to abortion.” (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

LEON COUNTY, Fla. — A Palm Beach County synagogue is suing the state of Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody, Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo and other state leaders over the 15-week abortion restriction law set to take effect July 1.

The legislation prevents most abortions after 15 weeks. There are exceptions if the mother's life is considered to be in danger or if the fetus is considered to have a "fatal fetal abnormality."

Two physicians must certify "the termination of the pregnancy is necessary to save the pregnant woman’s life" or avert serious irreversible impairment. Democratic lawmakers had proposed an amendment to allow just one physician to make that judgment, but it was rejected.

The law does not allow exceptions for rape or incest.

Congregation L'Dor Va-Dor filed a lawsuit Friday in Leon County, claiming the new law violates religious freedoms.

"By harming and threatening the Jewish family, and the rights of Jewish women, the Act does irreparable harm to the Jewish people," the lawsuit claims.

The plaintiffs say the abortion restrictions also violate privacy rights.

"By banning the provision of abortion care after fifteen weeks LMP, the Act will unlawfully intrude upon the fundamental privacy rights of Florida women," the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit goes on to argue that the law violates religious freedom.

"This failure to maintain the separation of church and state, like so many other laws in other lands throughout history, threatens the Jewish family, and thus also threatens the Jewish people by imposing the laws of other religions upon Jews," the plaintiffs wrote.

Barry Silver is the rabbi for L'Dor Va-Dor. In addition to suggesting the Florida abortion law violates the separation of church and state, Silver told 10 Tampa Bay it violates the rights to due process and equal protection.

"It would prevent a Jewish woman from being able to practice her religion because it would require her to sacrifice herself for the fetus," Silver said.

The 15-week abortion restriction law has seen other challenges in the past, including from Planned Parenthood and other health centers that filed a lawsuit in June.

Silver hopes to expedite the lawsuit and hear from a judge before July 1.

Meanwhile, Republican state leaders have expressed repeated support for the abortion restrictions.

"We are here today to protect life," said DeSantis while signing the legislation in April. "We are here today to defend those who cannot defend themselves." 

Republican Senate President Wilton Simpson, in an April statement, echoed those sentiments.

"Every abortion kills a special and unique human being who deserves protection under the laws of this state and the chance to grow up in a loving family," Simpson wrote, in part. "As an adopted child in a family that took in foster children, it has always been important to me that our state do everything we can to promote adoption as an alternative to abortion."


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