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Florida synagogue sues over new anti-abortion law as violation of Jews’ religious rights

The state has imposed 'the laws of other religions upon Jews,' the lawsuit contends

A South Florida synagogue this week filed a lawsuit that argues that the state’s new abortion law will do “irreparable harm” to Jews and others who don’t share the religious beliefs upon which the law is based.

Because under Jewish law abortion is required if necessary to protect the health of a woman, and for many other reasons not permitted under the new law, it “prohibits Jewish women from practicing their faith free of government intrusion and thus violates their privacy rights and religious freedom,” the lawsuit contends.

The synagogue that filed the lawsuit, Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor of Boynton Beach, aims to block the enactment of the new law, which is set to go into effect on July 1 and would prohibit abortions in nearly all case after 15 weeks of pregnancy. 

Under current law, Florida allows abortion until 24 weeks. The lawsuit comes a month after a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that signals a possible decision to overturn the precedent set in Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that established the right to abortion.

The synagogue’s argument is not a new one for abortion rights supporters, who have long argued that laws limiting abortion reflect a particular Christian point of view that holds that life begins at conception and that abortion is murder. Rabbis for Repro, formed nearly two years ago under the umbrella of the National Council of Jewish Women, has sent Jewish clergy to Congress and statehouses to make the case that abortion restrictions limit Jewish religious freedom. And in Washington, D.C., last month Jewish abortion rights supporters held a rally on the National Mall with many speakers arguing that abortion is not only compatible with their faith, but sometimes required by it.

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,” contends the lawsuit, filed Friday in Leon County circuit court. 

Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor, which doesn’t belong to any denomination, defines itself as “an all-inclusive, universal, and rational approach to Judaism” and “honors tradition, respects science, and celebrates spirituality.”

In an interview Tuesday, the congregation’s rabbi, Barry Silver, said when separation of religion and government crumbles, religious minorities such as Jews often suffer. “Every time that wall starts to crack, bad things start to happen,” he said.

This is the second suit challenging the new Florida law. The first was filed earlier this month by abortion clinics. Both suits contend the new law violates the privacy rights guaranteed in the Florida Constitution.

JTA contributed to this story.

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