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Synagogue Sues Florida Over Abortion Ban, Which Rabbi Says Violates Religious Freedom

Unfortunately, thanks to a conservative supermajority on the state supreme court, this lawsuit isn't necessarily a slam dunk for abortion rights.

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Governor Ron DeSantis signs Florida’s 15-week abortion ban into law.
Governor Ron DeSantis signs Florida’s 15-week abortion ban into law.
Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket (Getty Images)

Florida passed a 15-week abortion ban that is set to take effect on July 1 and, in an incredibly subtle move, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law at an Evangelical Christian church. Currently, abortion is available in the state through 24 weeks, and Roe v. Wade holds that states can’t ban abortion before that point, but with the Supreme Court set to overturn Roe any day now, the Florida law could have legal footing.

The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Florida, Center for Reproductive Rights, and Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit against Florida on June 1. And now, a synagogue is suing the state, claiming that the law violates the religious freedom of Jewish Floridians, as well as the state constitution’s privacy protections.

The Rabbi of Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor of Boynton Beach, Florida, is Rabbi Barry Silver, who is also an attorney. The synagogue said in its complaint that the law violates Jewish teachings on abortion, which say that abortion isn’t only permitted, but required in cases where a pregnancy threatens the life or physical or mental health of the woman or pregnant person. In the suit, filed on Friday in Leon County Circuit Court, the congregation argues that the law “prohibits Jewish women from practicing their faith free of government intrusion and this violates their privacy rights and religious freedom,” and that it “threatens the Jewish people by imposing the laws of other religions upon Jews.”

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The Associated Press said it’s likely that the two lawsuits will be consolidated into a single case and a hearing is expected before July 1.

Abortion bans and restrictions should not go unchallenged, but we’d be remiss not to point out that these lawsuits would present an opportunity for the conservative supermajority on the Florida supreme court to declare that the state constitution’s explicit right to privacy doesn’t protect abortion, actually. If the court did that, it would not only let the 15-week ban take effect, but it would open the door for state lawmakers to ban abortion even earlier in pregnancy or outlaw it entirely.

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This outcome wouldn’t only affect Floridians but also people across the Southeast, in states with more restrictive abortion laws who come to Florida for care. Until DeSantis was able to change the makeup of the state supreme court, it seemed like Florida would remain an abortion haven, but that future—like so much else—is now in doubt.