Five more faith-based lawsuits filed to overturn Florida’s 15-week abortion ban
Image via Scott Powers.

Ashley Moody and Ron DeSantis in Orlando
‘Freedom of religion must protect the religious rights and beliefs of all citizens — not just those opposed to women’s right to choose.’

Seven faith leaders from South Florida and Tampa are suing elected attorneys across the state — from Attorney General Ashley Moody to State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle of Miami-Dade County — over Florida’s new ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Clergy from diverse religious practices, including Reform Judaism, Buddhism, Episcopalianism, Unitarianism and the United Church of Christ, filed five lawsuits Monday with the 11th Judicial Circuit. All contend the ban (HB 5) violates constitutionally established rights to free speech, religious exercise and the separation of church and state.

The complaints also reference the Florida Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1998, which among other things protects against laws that “substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion.”

“Since time immemorial, the question of when a potential fetus or fetus becomes a life and how to value maternal life during a pregnancy have been answered according to religious beliefs and creeds,” the lawsuits say. “HB 5 codifies one of the possible religious viewpoints on the question, and in its operation imposes severe burdens on other (beliefs, including those of the plaintiffs).”

The plaintiffs are demanding an immediate stay in the state’s enforcement of the law and for the law to be ruled unconstitutional.

“For decades, the Catholic bishops and the Evangelical right wing have claimed a singular religious high ground on the issue of abortion rights and tried to label anyone opposed to their views as ‘secularists.’ Yet there are millions of Americans whose deeply held religious beliefs, speech, and conduct are being substantially burdened by restrictive abortion bans like HB 5,” said University of Pennsylvania political science professor Marci Hamilton. Hamilton is representing the plaintiffs alongside a handful of lawyers from New Jersey-based firm Spiro Harrison and Chicago-based Jayaram Law.

“Freedom of religion must protect the religious rights and beliefs of all citizens — not just those opposed to women’s right to choose.”

The plaintiffs are Rabbi Robyn Fisher of Beth Or Miami, Rabbi Gayle Pomerantz of Temple Beth Sholom in Miami Beach, Rabbi Jason Rosenberg of Congregation Beth Am in Tampa, Lama Karma Chotso of Open Awareness Buddhist Center in Miami, Rev. Tom Capo of Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Miami, Rev. Lauri Hafner of Coral Gables United Church of Christ, and an unnamed priest of the Episcopal Church of Miami-Dade.

The lawsuit follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June to overturn precedents set through Roe v. Wade and defer to states the power to restrict or fully ban abortion.

Florida’s new law, which includes no exception for victims of rape, incest or human trafficking, was among the strictest abortion prohibitions in the nation when Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the measure in April. Soon after a draft of the pending Supreme Court decision leaked, GOP lawmakers throughout the state signaled interest in passing a complete ban next year.

Advertisement

“We now have the will and we have the votes in the House to pass legislation that will ban abortion in the great state of Florida for life,” Deltona Rep. Webster Barnaby, who filed a Texas-style “heartbeat” ban last Session that would have outlawed abortions after around six weeks, said in May.

The bill died without a single committee hearing.

Upon hearing of the lawsuits, Moody issued the following statement: “To be abundantly clear, terminating a pregnancy at 15 weeks requires ripping apart, limb-by-limb, a baby, which medical evidence has shown likely feels pain. It is certainly newsworthy that these religious organizations are bringing suit to challenge Florida’s ban of that practice. Nonetheless, we will continue to defend the state statute as that is the responsibility of the Florida Attorney General’s Office.”

The new lawsuit joins others challenging HB 5 now in the legal pipeline by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor.

Late last month, Democratic lawyer and Attorney General candidate Daniel Uhlfelder came on as co-counsel to the Boynton Beach-based Synagogue’s suit, which cites protections for abortion under Jewish law if it is “necessary to protect the health, mental or physical well-being of the woman.”

The new abortion 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.

Defendants in the five new lawsuits include Moody, Rundle and State Attorneys Philip Archer, David Aronberg, Thomas Bakkedahl, Bruce Bartlett, Larry Basford, Ginger Bowden Madden, Ed Brodsky, Jack Campbell, John Durrett, Amira Fox, William Gladson, Brian Haas, Brian Kramer, R.J. Larizza, Melissa Nelson, Harold Pryor, Dennis Ward, Andrew Warren and Monique Worrell.

___

Editor’s note: This story was updated to include a statement from the Attorney General’s Office.

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.


27 comments

  • tom palmer

    August 2, 2022 at 2:21 pm

    Nothing will be decided in this suit until after the election, so Moody & Company are free to ignore it beyond the need to file motions and responses. The law’s main purpose, which was to appeal to the GOP base, has been served If the dominoes begin to fall closer to 2024, Amerika’s Governor may have some explaining to do. In the Desantis: Keep Florida Free (from dissent) world that doesn’t happen as often as it should.

  • Elliott Offen

    August 2, 2022 at 3:24 pm

    The religious SCOTUS handed down this fatwa. Religious people take others rights and freedoms away through a myriad of justifications, rationalizations, and propaganda. They impose their beliefs on others. Been happening for a thousand years. Just say NO to religious lunatics.

  • Just a comment

    August 2, 2022 at 3:46 pm

    I never knew that they were doing abortion when the religion came to be..I have to read that in biblical text

    • John Caro

      August 5, 2022 at 12:23 pm

      They WERE doing abortions. It is in the Bible. Read Numbers 5:11.

  • Ron Ogden

    August 2, 2022 at 7:08 pm

    “‘Freedom of religion must protect the religious rights and beliefs of all citizens — not just those opposed to women’s right to choose.”
    Leftish anarchists have no more business invoking freedom of religion in support of abortion than they do in support of burning babies on altars to BAAL.

    • Elliott Offen

      August 2, 2022 at 8:18 pm

      You people use religion to justify all kinds of stupid stuff, but when others try to invoke silly belief arguments it’s not ok? Coming from those who elected Satan (Donald Trump) one has to wonder what sort of religion those people really have. Also leftist anarchists??? What the hell do you call Ashli Babbitt, Q-Shaman, and the other J6 anti-government terrorists? You people have lost your GD minds! Karen lunatics!!!

      • Shafiul

        August 2, 2022 at 9:36 pm

        Who created computer first can explain how use that. Who created human can explain how human should lead their life and what is best for the human being. So religion is nothing but the best way of leading one’s life.

        • Elliott Offen

          August 3, 2022 at 8:23 am

          That’s what it is SUPPOSED to be but historically it has rarely ever turned out that way. Read my comment further down the page. Christianity is only one philosophy. People sell themselves short by only reading one book their whole lives. Apes have more sense….

  • marylou

    August 2, 2022 at 10:08 pm

    A cult of sanctimonious woman-haters invoking freedom of religion to control and punish women and girls –4th graders!— has no more right to invoke freedom of religion now, than it did when it dreamed up the inquisition and witch hunting.

    Your history and buy-bull are full of murder, rape, incest, stoning, and general misogyny. Now you are using your religion to limit the lives of women and girls, take away contraceptives, jail women for miscarriages, let women die from pregnancy and miscarriage complications. It’s hard to imagine how you can even show your faces.

    Not everyone’s religious beliefs are so depraved. Those citizens’ religious rights deserve to be protected.

    • marylou

      August 2, 2022 at 10:11 pm

      * this was supposed to be a Reply to RON OGDEN

      • Ron Ogden

        August 3, 2022 at 7:14 am

        Marylou–The purpose of Christianity is to defend the value of humanity, and therefore the value of life itself. Those of you who would 1/ so lose control of your bodies that you would get pregnant inadvertently, when it is simple to avoid, and then would 2/resort to bloody murder to solve your problem and then would 3/offer so spitefully ignorant a rationale as to call it an exercise in religion merely show that you have utterly abandoned the idea of an intellectual, logical and reasoning mind and soul and that you are by definition a bipedal organism–at best!

        • Don’t Look Up

          August 3, 2022 at 10:10 am

          Ron …. I suggest you end your crusade! I suggest you leave the sensitive decision on women’s health to the woman and her physician. No one is asking YOU to perform or have an abortion.

  • Elliott Offen

    August 3, 2022 at 8:20 am

    For a look at “the purpose of Christianity” one must review its evolution. In Jesus time, it was a cult and in reality a rebellion and political threat to the Roman Empire. Then Charlemagne spread Christianity in Europe with the sword… issuing decrees that called for death if people didn’t convert or refused baptism. It was an ideological tool for conquest and oppression. In other words, you must believe what we believe or you will be killed. Then we have the Catholic Church scamming people selling eternal life through so called indulgences. One could say that real Christianity ended with the death of Christ! Since then it’s just been used as a tool to manipulate the masses into conformity to some mad man’s will or group of magical thought manipulators or some political order. Hell even the Nazi Party, like Trump, tried to appeal to religious and nationalist sentiment…then after they took power they wiped their ass with it all. Tis YOU who has abandoned reason and critical thinking Ron Ogden.

  • PeterH

    August 3, 2022 at 10:05 am

    After last night’s red state Kansas’s 60-40 referendum women’s rights victory ….. every state should let voters decide. Historically 44% of Kansas’s electorate has a Republican Party affiliate. In a closed primary vote a huge number of Republicans decided that abortion should be available and legal.

  • Ron Ogden

    August 3, 2022 at 10:18 am

    I do not know if you consider yourself conversant with history, but a 200-word gloss on two millennia of Western development is, at best, lazy.
    Almost all the people who share this world with us call themselves religious, a plurality call themselves Christian, and the majority of those call themselves Catholic. I am sure you are unimpressed with that. They aren’t–thank God! Quite a few of them mean it. Baby murder offends them, just as it has offended thoughtful, compassionate religiously-minded people for thousands of years. No, I am not going to try to defend either Charlemagne or Hitler–nor Margaret Sanger, who I am sure was a hero of yours, as well as a horrifying bigot. All I am going to say, again, is that there is no justification for abortion in well over 99% of the cases in which in takes place, and there is NEVER any religious justification, despite your wishful thinking and middle school scholarship.

    • Elliott Offen

      August 3, 2022 at 11:21 am

      Religion is declining in the western world…and not many people who claim to be religious actually believe in a creator. Given scientific revelations over the past few hundred years… only stupid people believe such nonsense. And here you are calling everyone else uneducated and unintelligent. Tis you who is a fool, a tool, and quite frankly an asshole. People like you incentivize people to leave the church and to top it off you are a walking advertisement for abortion! Thanks!

    • Joe Corsin

      August 3, 2022 at 12:00 pm

      @Ron Ogden: You’re in Rome buddy. Pray in your closet because Emperor Nero is upon you. Continue in your rebellion and political opposition to the empire and you will be burned alive and fed to the lions…

    • marylou

      August 4, 2022 at 10:41 am

      (includes reply to your 8/post)

      The lawsuits are defending the value of life and humanity, based on their religious beliefs. They don’t reject Christian values. They are being filed by Christians (& Jews & Buddhists). The Constitution protects them, too.

      Getting and using contraceptives is not “simple”, especially for younger and poorer women and girls. 40+ years of avoiding pregnancy takes a significant toll on women. Vasectomies help.

      If you’re planning to vote for ron, at least consider that he is a serial veto-er of bills that would provide Long-Acting Contraceptives for lower income women and girls, despite them being almost 100% effective. Because he is making the Catholic Church a co-equal branch of government.

      • marylou

        August 4, 2022 at 10:48 am

        Ron Ogden: Murder? Various Religions believe life begins anywhere from conception up until months after birth. Most people can see a difference if they order chicken and the waiter brings two fertilized eggs.

        The government should not be picking a religion and writing its beliefs (and taking orders from it–see 2022 Bishops’ letter demanding LARC veto) into law, like ron is doing with his Catholicism, rather than doing what’s best for the residents of Florida.

        Based on his 2018 debate statements and comments on the Texas ban ,if re-elected desantis will ban abortion completely–even to save the woman’s life. It will be a Catholic Church ban, which only permits end of pregnancy if it is a by-product of an action taken to save a woman’s life, ex: removal of a cancerous uterus . It will be illegal for her doctor to take any direct action to end a pregnancy–even to save the woman’s life. From conception!

        No more medical treatment of ectopic pregnancy, no removal of fetus to prevent death or irreversible damage to vital organ in hypertensive crisis–even if woman will be in an irreversible coma—- until her death. There are cases of brain-dead women being kept on machines for months, until the fetus is removed by c-section, despite her family’s wishes. Do you understand this?

        sorry that this is long!

      • marylou

        August 4, 2022 at 11:14 am

        * (Moderator rejected this earlier ?? maybe a religious objection?)

        Ron Ogden: Murder? Various Religions believe life begins anywhere from conception up until months after birth. Most people can see a difference if they order chicken and the waiter brings two fertilized eggs. A pregnancy that harms or limits a woman/girl’s life and future, or uses her as a non-consenting incubator, is viewed as extreme immorality on a level equal to murder in some religions.

        The government should not be picking a religion and writing its beliefs (and taking orders from it–see 2022 Bishops’ letter demanding LARC veto) into law, like ron is doing with his Catholicism, rather than doing what’s best for the residents of Florida.

        Based on his 2018 debate statements and comments on the Texas ban ,if re-elected desantis will ban abortion completely–even to save the woman’s life. It will be a Catholic Church ban, which only permits death of a fetus if it is a by-product of an action taken to save a woman’s life, ex: removal of a cancerous uterus in a pregnant woman . It will be illegal for her doctor to take any direct action to end a pregnancy–even to save the woman’s life. From conception, onward! Even if it’s 100% known that fetus will die with mother!

        No more medical treatment of ectopic pregnancy, no removal of fetus to prevent death or irreversible damage to vital organ systems in hypertensive crisis–even if woman will be in an irreversible coma—- until her death. There are cases of brain-dead women being kept on machines for months, until the fetus is removed by c-section, despite her family’s wishes. Do you understand this?

      • marylou

        August 4, 2022 at 1:59 pm

        One of the most horrific outcomes of Ron’s ban will be: pregnant women with no brain activity being kept on life-support machines in the hospital, for weeks, until a c-section is performed–against her families wishes. This has already happened in the US.

    • marylou

      August 4, 2022 at 1:12 pm

      Ron Ogden: (continued) Murder? Religions place the beginning of life anywhere from conception up until months after birth. Most people can see a difference if they order chicken and the waiter brings two fertilized eggs.

      Ron’s 2018 debate statements and his comments on the Texas ban show that, if re-elected, desantis will ban abortion completely —-even to save the woman’s life. It will be a Catholic Church Ban, which only permits “death” of a fetus if it is a by-product of an action taken to save a woman’s life, ex: removal of a pregnant woman’s cancerous uterus. It will be illegal for her doctor to take any action to “intentionally cause fetal death”, even to save the woman’s life. She will be left to die. From conception, onward! (pregnancy tests at ER door?) Even if it’s 100% inescapable that the fetus will die while it kills the woman!
      No more medical treatment of ectopic pregnancy, no removal of a fetus to prevent death or irreversible damage to vital organs in a hypertensive crisis, even if a woman will be in an irreversible coma—- until her death. There are cases of brain-dead women being kept on machines for weeks, until the fetus is removed by c-section, against her family’s wishes. Do you understand this?

  • SANDRA OLIVA

    August 3, 2022 at 12:38 pm

    TERRIFIC: BEING RELIGIOUS DOES NOT ATTACK EVERYONE’S BRAIN! PROUD OF YOU

  • marylou

    August 4, 2022 at 1:41 pm

    Moderator: trying again!
    Ron Ogden: Ron Ogden: (continued) Murder? Religions place the beginning of life anywhere from conception up until months after birth. Most people can see a difference if they order chicken and the waiter brings two fertilized eggs.

    • marylou

      August 4, 2022 at 1:44 pm

      Ron Ogden: (con’t) Desantis’ 2018 debate statements and his comments on the Texas ban make clear that, if re-elected, he will ban abortion completely —-even to save the woman’s life. It will be a Catholic Church Ban, which only permits “death” of a fetus if it is a by-product of an action taken to save a woman’s life, ex: removal of a pregnant woman’s cancerous uterus. It will be illegal for her doctor to take any action to “intentionally cause fetal death”, even to save the woman’s life. She will be left to die. From conception, onward! (pregnancy tests at ER door?) Even if it’s 100% inescapable that the fetus will die while it kills the woman!

      • marylou

        August 4, 2022 at 1:45 pm

        No more medical treatment of ectopic pregnancy, no removal of a fetus to prevent death or irreversible damage to vital organs in a hypertensive crisis, even if a woman will be in an irreversible coma—- until her death. There are cases of women with no brain activity being kept on machines for weeks, until the fetus is removed by c-section, against her family’s wishes. Do you understand this?

  • marylou

    August 4, 2022 at 2:09 pm

    One of the most horrific outcomes of Ron’s ban will be: pregnant women with no brain activity being kept on life-support machines in the hospital, for weeks, until a c-section is performed–against her families wishes. This has already happened in the US.

Comments are closed.


#FlaPol

Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Joe Henderson, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Gray Rohrer, Aimee Sachs, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Wes Wolfe, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704




Sign up for Sunburn


Categories