Urgent Legal Action Filed To Stop State Abortion Ban In Florida

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State officials in Florida, including Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, have been sued by a Jewish congregation in southern Florida over the state’s 15-week abortion ban set to go into effect July 1. That ban has very limited exceptions, including to save the life of someone who is pregnant but excluding cases involving rape or incest.

The new case was brought in Leon County circuit court by Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor, which operates in Boynton Beach, a locale in Palm Beach County. The case challenges the abortion restrictions set to soon take effect on the foundation of arguments about the rights to privacy and religious freedom — with the latter point dependent on the role of abortion in Jewish thinking and practice regarding bringing new children into the world.

“For Jews, all life is precious and thus the decision to bring new life into the world is not taken lightly or determined by state fiat… 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 new law]. As such, the act prohibits Jewish women from practicing their faith free of government intrusion and thus violates their privacy rights and religious freedom,” as the new lawsuit explains. Plaintiffs hope to block the ban. The case adds that the “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 case could have additional ramifications beyond its initial targets, since DeSantis indicated after the Supreme Court recently overturned Roe v. Wade that Republican officials in Florida would be endeavoring to expand Florida’s abortion restrictions. Overturning the conclusions reached in that prior case means state officials are now free to regulate abortion according to their personal and political ambitions, no matter the health consequences for their constituents.

DeSantis sounded exuberant after the Supreme Court overturned Roe: “The prayers of millions have been answered. For nearly fifty years, the U.S. Supreme Court has prohibited virtually any meaningful pro-life protection, but this was not grounded in the text, history or structure of the Constitution… Florida will continue to defend its recently enacted pro-life reforms against state court challenges, will work to expand pro-life protections, and will stand for life by promoting adoption, foster care and child welfare.” The Supreme Court did not, in fact, previously block “virtually any meaningful” restrictions on abortion.

There’s also been recent litigation challenging state abortion restrictions in Utah, Louisiana, Idaho, Texas, and Mississippi — and the list no doubt goes on from there. So-called trigger bans on abortion, which were designed to go into effect if Roe was overturned, were temporarily blocked in Utah and Louisiana as proceedings continued. In Idaho, where a trigger ban is set to take effect within the next couple of months, an arm of Planned Parenthood and a physician providing abortions brought a lawsuit against the looming ban, which includes only rare exceptions to save the life of a pregnant person or for cases involving rape or incest. The case argues the ban violates rights to privacy and equal protection outlined by the state Constitution. Plaintiffs are also challenging the formulation of the ban: medical personnel, they say, will be forced to operate amid uncertainty regarding what they’re allowed to do in cases involving miscarriage or a threat to a pregnant person’s life.