Daniel Uhlfelder joins synagogue lawsuit challenging Florida’s new abortion ban
Daniel Uhlfelder has the fundraising lead.

Uhlfelder headshot
He has promised not to enforce the ban if elected Attorney General.

Democratic lawyer and Attorney General candidate Daniel Uhlfelder has come on as co-counsel to a South Florida synagogue’s lawsuit challenging Florida’s 15-week abortion ban.

The lawsuit, filed last month by Rabbi Barry Silver and Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor in Boynton Beach, contends that the new law banning most abortions after 15 weeks violates the state constitution’s right to privacy and freedom of religion.

Silver’s complaint, which runs parallel to another the American Civil Liberties Union filed June 1, says Jewish law provides that “abortion is required if necessary to protect the health, mental or physical well-being of the woman.”

Florida’s new law, which went into effect July 1, allows for abortions after 15 weeks if the mother’s life is at risk or if two doctors concur there is a fetal abnormality. Republican lawmakers repeatedly refused during the 2022 Legislative Session to add exceptions in the measure for cases of rape, incest or human trafficking.

Uhlfelder, who faces two opponents in the Democratic Primary to determine who will challenge incumbent Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody, said the lawsuit “cuts to the core” of why he’s running for office.

“I will always fight for freedom, justice, our constitution, and human rights,” he said in a statement. “While women’s rights and religious freedoms are under attack, Rabbi Barry Silver and Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor have decided to fight back. I am proud to join this important lawsuit as co-counsel as we work to restore the fundamental human rights that unjust abortion bans have stripped away.”

In early May, after the Republican-controlled Legislature passed the abortion measure, Uhlfelder declared that he would “refuse” to enforce the ban if elected Attorney General.

Uhlfelder and Silver were scheduled to speak to members of the press Thursday afternoon. The meeting was later postponed due to “unforeseen circumstances,” Uhlfelder’s campaign said.

About six in 10 Americans believe abortion should be legal “in all or most cases,” according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center. Support among Jewish people is considerably higher. Of more than 800 Jews surveyed in 2014, 83%, supported a woman’s right to choose whether to carry a pregnancy to term.

Interpretations differ across Judaism, with some Orthodox rabbis denouncing abortion.

Some Jews point to the Torah, which non-Jews refer to as the Old Testament of the Bible, and the Talmud, the central text of Rabbinic Judaism and the main source of Jewish religious law and theology, as containing numerous entries asserting that life begins at birth and placing more value on the life of the mother than the embryo she carries.

However, while some argue that laws restricting abortion violate religious freedom, Florida’s new law appears in keeping with standards set forth in Hebrew texts.

The first biblical reference to what constitutes human life appears in the book of Genesis: “And the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and He breathed into his nostrils the soul of life, and man became a living soul.”

Later, the book of Exodus states, “And should men quarrel and hit a pregnant woman, and she miscarries but there is no fatality, he shall surely be punished, when the woman’s husband makes demands of him, and he shall give (restitution) according to the judges’ (orders). But if there is a fatality, you shall give a life for a life.”

The Jewish interpretation of that passage is that if a woman miscarries, the person or people responsible are not liable for a capital offense. However, if the injury is fatal for the woman, the person responsible should be put to death.

The inclusion of “a life for a life,” which is followed by the more famous, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” makes clear that a woman is considered living person whose murder is punishable by death and a fetus is not.

Support for abortion when a mother’s life is in danger is explicitly laid out in the Talmud (Tohorot 2, Oholot 7:6): “If a woman is having trouble giving birth they cut up the child in her womb and bring it forth limb by limb, because her life comes before the life of (the child). But if the greater part has come out, one may not touch it, for one may not set aside one person’s life for that of another.”

This passage, which reinforces those from the Torah making birth a prerequisite to personhood, states that until the “greater part” a fetus — long considered synonymous with the head — emerges from the birth canal, it may be dismembered for the sake of the mother’s wellbeing.

Supplementary to that is a person’s right to self-defense. As Immanuel Jakobovits, chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregation of the Commonwealth, wrote in 1965: “This ruling, sanctioning embryotomy to save the mother in her mortal conflict with her unborn child, is also the sole reference to abortion in the principal codes of Jewish law. They add only the further argument that such a child, being in ‘pursuit’ of the mother’s life, may be destroyed as an ‘aggressor’ following the general principle of self-defense.”

But according to Jakobovits, the classic sources of Jewish law do not condone abortion outside circumstances when a mother’s life is at risk.

“(The) only indication considered for abortion is hazard to the mother’s life,” he wrote, adding that “otherwise, the destruction of an unborn child is a grave offense, although not murder.”

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


8 comments

  • Just a comment

    July 21, 2022 at 7:27 pm

    I better be careful I might get fired from that invisible job

  • Marconi

    July 22, 2022 at 7:27 am

    lets just pick and choose what laws we will enforce. NOT!

  • marylou

    July 22, 2022 at 1:45 pm

    He is right. The state should not be prosecuting people for exercising their freedom of religion. And, if his own religious belief is that abortion decisions are solely the decision of the woman, and that the sanctity of the woman’s life is paramount, then he should refuse to prosecute abortion ban cases on those grounds, also.

    • John Doe

      July 22, 2022 at 2:23 pm

      Wrong again fool. If he can’t follow the law, then he should step aside and allow somebody who can to enforce the law. What you describe is anarchy, not a representative form of democracy, You sure wouldn’t like it if somebody came along who wouldn’t enforce those laws which you think should be enforced.

      • marylou

        July 22, 2022 at 4:40 pm

        There are employees of governments, private companies, and individuals refusing to do all kinds of things on religious and free speech grounds:

        refusing to process marriage licenses for same sex couples, refusing to provide health insurance coverage for contraceptives and abortion (Catholic Church, Hobby Lobby, etc.), pharmacists refusing to fill contraceptive prescriptions, Catholic adoption agencies (funded with tax $$) refusing to allow gay couples to adopt, people refusing to go to work on religious holidays at the expense of co-workers, people refusing to pay union dues because the union supports Planned Parenthood, refusing to say “Merry Christmas” on work phone, IRS employee refused to handle tax-exempt status applications for organizations that support abortions, public school coach refused to stop loudly chanting prayers in the locker room and on the 50 yard line at football games–coercing his students to participate–despite parents’ objections and the school’s numerous accommodations.
        It’s amazing that any work ever gets done.

        • John Doe

          July 25, 2022 at 2:07 pm

          You CAN NOT be this stupid. He’s the guy charged with prosecuting valid laws. The fact that other employees may ignore valid laws is not an excuse for him to do so.

          • Marylou

            July 26, 2022 at 2:22 pm

            The other people were hired to do a job, too —-some even by the government. They are permitted to refuse to do things they are being paid to do, because of their religious beliefs. I’m sure no one would want to discriminate against him because his religious beliefs are not the same as theirs.

  • Dr. George Soros DA's for America's Destruction Committee Chair.

    July 23, 2022 at 4:08 pm

    My really super important question for this fame hungry woke weathervane is: If elected, will you be double masking and wearing you Grim Reaper costume for the duration of your term?

Comments are closed.


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