15-Week Abortion Ban ‘Discriminates Against Jews,’ Says Lawsuit by Florida Synagogue

Lucy Collins | July 7, 2022 | 3:04pm EDT
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(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

(CNS News) -- A Florida synagogue is suing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) over a new Florida law that prohibits abortion after 15 weeks. In the lawsuit, the synagogue says “the right to abortion is a critical aspect of Jewish practice” and thus the law “prohibits the free exercise of the Jewish religion.”

In June, Rabbi Barry Silver filed suit on behalf of Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor to fight the new Florida abortion law (HB 5) scheduled to take effect on July 1. HB 5 bans abortion after 15 weeks and makes exceptions if abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother, prevent serious injury to the mother, or if the baby has a fatal birth defect.

Rabbi Silver is demanding an injunction for HB 5 based on its violation of religious freedom.

Rabbi Barri Silver, Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor.  (Screenshot)
Rabbi Barri Silver, Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor. (Screenshot)

“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,” reads the lawsuit.  “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,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit claims the Act violates both the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause, contending the abortion law reflects the views of “Christian nationalists who seek to deny religious freedom to all others, including fellow Christians, under the arrogant notion that only they are capable of understanding God’s law and judgments, and the religious views of all others are false, evil and not entitled to respect or constitutional protections.”

“Forcing a woman to become a parent against her will not only discriminates against Jews, it also violates the rights of the mentally ill, minorities, the poor and oppressed, and those who do not wield political and economic power in the State of Florida,” reads the filing.

“By harming and threatening the Jewish family, and the rights of Jewish women, the Act does irreparable harm to the Jewish people,” it states.

(Screenshot, National Center for Jewish Women)
(Screenshot, National Center for Jewish Women)

The lawsuit claims this is a common view held by Jewish organizations. As it reads,  “According to the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) ‘Judaism permits Abortion. Full stop. The Constitution gives us the right to have abortions. Full stop.’ This view reflects the view of most Jewish organizations.”

The Coalition for Jewish Values, the largest rabbinic public policy organization in America that represents over 2,000 traditional rabbis, takes a different position. In a June 24 statement, they wrote, “Judaism regards all human life as sacred, including when a fetus is yet to be born. Jewish law permits abortion only in truly extraordinary circumstances. This does not describe the situation in America today, where the overwhelming majority of abortions are done as an elective procedure.”

In speaking to CNS News, Rabbi Yaakov Menken, the managing director of the Coalition for Jewish Values, criticized Jewish pro-abortion activists who claim a fetus is not yet a life by appealing to Jewish law. He said there is a “total prohibition” on any violations of the Sabbath except to save a life, and, “In the event that the mother is dying, or has died, one is allowed to perform a C section on the Sabbath, even though it involves a total prohibition, to save the life of the fetus.”

Rabbi Yaakov Menken, managing director of the Coalition for Jewish Values.  (Screenshot)
Rabbi Yaakov Menken, managing director of the Coalition for Jewish Values. (Screenshot)

“So, whether you call that alive or the same status as a born child, it's very clear that that life has inestimable value, like all human life,” said Rabbi Menken.

Following a lawsuit by abortion providers, a Florida circuit court judge ruled that the 15-week ban was unconstitutional and issued a temporary statewide injunction. However, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody then filed an appeal which automatically stays the judge's order and allows the abortion ban to take effect.

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