United Church of Christ and Episcopal Pastors Sue to Overturn Florida Law Banning Late Abortions

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Aug 2, 2022   |   6:11PM   |   Tallahassee, Florida

A group of religious leaders, including two supposedly Christian pastors, filed lawsuits Monday challenging a Florida law that protects unborn babies by banning abortions after 15 weeks.

Reuters reports the pastors from the United Church of Christ and the Episcopal Church claim the pro-life law violates their free speech and freedom of religion. Three Jewish rabbis, a Buddhist lama and a Unitarian Universalist minister also filed lawsuits Monday making the same claim.

The Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality Act, which went into effect July 1, bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions if the mother’s life is at risk or the unborn baby has a fatal disorder. It also includes measures to reduce infant mortality and a requirement that abortion facilities report suspected human trafficking cases to the state.

Pro-life leaders estimate the law will save more than 3,000 nearly fully-formed second-trimester unborn babies from abortion every year in Florida. After 15 weeks, one of the most common abortion procedures involves dismembering the unborn baby, tearing their body apart limb from limb and removing them in pieces from the womb while their heart is still beating.

However, the religious leaders claim these protections for unborn babies “severely burden” their religious freedom, both under the U.S. Constitution and Florida law, according to the rabbis’ lawsuit.

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Here’s more from Reuters:

They asked the court to declare that the state’s abortion law violates Florida and U.S. constitutional protections for freedom of speech and religion.

They also claim the abortion ban violates a Florida religious freedom law that prohibits the government from “substantially burdening” the exercise of religion, unless there is a compelling state interest that cannot be met with fewer restrictions.

Separately, the ACLU also filed a lawsuit against the pro-life law in July on behalf of Planned Parenthood and other Florida abortion facilities. A judge temporarily blocked enforcement of the law, but the state began enforcing it again a short time later after Gov. Ron DeSantis appealed.

Challenging pro-life laws on religious freedom grounds is not a new idea. The Satanic Temple has been attempting similar legal challenges for years without success.

In May, the satanic group said it plans to challenge more pro-life laws on religious freedom grounds in response to the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. The group claims killing an unborn baby in an abortion is a “religious ritual” in its members’ views.

Florida is one of 13 states that protects unborn babies by limiting or banning abortions now that Roe is gone.

Under Roe, more than 63 million unborn babies were aborted in the United States. The 1973 ruling forced states to legalize abortion on demand up to viability and allowed abortions up to birth. Now, because of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health ruling, states may protect unborn babies by banning abortions again. The Charlotte Lozier Institute estimates more than 122,000 unborn babies are being saved from abortion as a result of the pro-life laws currently in effect.