PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — A Boynton Beach synagogue has filed a lawsuit alleging that Governor Ron DeSantis’ recent bill banning most abortions after 15 weeks violates Jewish religious freedom rights and protections of privacy permitted in the Florida constitution.
The lawsuit, filed by Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor on June 17 in the Circuit Court of Leon, states that people who “do not share the religious views reflected in the act will suffer” and that it “threatens the Jewish people by imposing the laws of other religions on the Jews.
“For Jews, all life is precious and therefore the decision to bring new life into the world is not taken lightly or determined by state decree,” the lawsuit said. “In Jewish law, abortion is necessary if it is necessary to protect the health, mental or physical well-being of women, or for many other reasons not permitted [by Florida’s law].”
“As such, the law prohibits Jewish women from practicing their faith without government interference and this violates their right to privacy and religious freedom.
The synagogue is the second to challenge the 15-week abortion ban, which is due to come into effect on July 1. Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health providers filed a lawsuit in early June seeking to block the law.
DeSantis’ office said in an earlier statement that it “is confident that this law will ultimately withstand all legal challenges.”
The lawsuits can be consolidated into one case, and a hearing on the proposed injunction to block the law will likely be heard within the next two weeks.
Florida’s new legislation closely mirrors a similar measure passed in Mississippi that is now before the U.S. Supreme Court and can be used to overturn Roe v. Wade from 1973, according to a leaked draft notice. A final decision is expected by the end of June.
Rabbi Barry Silver told reporters that Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor – whose name means “generation to generation” – practices “cosmic Judaism”.
The synagogue’s website states, “We practice an inclusive, universal, and rational approach to Judaism where all are welcome through our doors, both virtually and literally. It is a Judaism that honors tradition, respects science and celebrates spirituality.
Silver, a lawyer and former Democratic state legislator, describes himself as a “social activist” and calls himself a “Rabbi-rouser” on his website.
When “the separation of religion and government breaks down, religious minorities such as Jews often suffer,” he told reporters, pointing out that the governor signed the bill in an evangelical Christian church.
The “Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality” bill, or HB 5, which DeSantis signed into law in February contains exceptions if the abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother or if the fetus has a life-threatening abnormality. However, it does not deal with cases of rape or incest.
Until the law goes into effect, women in Florida can abort up to 24 weeks pregnant. The new legislation reduces this period by nine weeks.