Friday, June 17, 2022
But a lawsuit filed last week by a South Florida synagogue challenges new legislation in the state banning most abortions after 15 weeks, saying it violates the State Constitution’s right to privacy and freedom of religion. In Jewish law, the suit argues, “abortion is required if necessary to protect the health, mental or physical well-being of the woman.”
The lawsuit, filed by Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor, a progressive synagogue in Palm Beach County not affiliated with a broader denomination, may face an uphill climb in court. But it is a reminder that abortion poses religious issues beyond those of the Christian right. And it suggests potential legal issues that could surface at a time when Roe seems likely to be overturned, and the Supreme Court has been aggressively open to a wider role for religion in public and political life.
Florida’s state law limiting abortions, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in April, goes into effect July 1. In banning abortions after 15 weeks, it does not make exceptions for cases of incest, rape or human trafficking. It does, however, allow for abortions if the mother’s life is endangered or if two doctors determine that the fetus has a fatal abnormality. The law was challenged earlier this month by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida on behalf of a group of abortion providers and abortion rights organizations.***
Deeply-rooted Jewish teachings indicate that abortion is permissible — and even required — if a mother’s life is in danger, said Jewish leaders from across the ideological spectrum. In Jewish thought, it is also widely accepted that as long as a fetus is in the womb, it has “potential,” but not full, personhood, said Michal Raucher, an assistant professor of Jewish Studies at Rutgers University.