Clergy members of five religions sued the state of Florida on Monday over a new law criminalizing most abortions in the state after 15 weeks of pregnancy, saying it violates their religious freedom rights.
The five separate lawsuits, filed in Miami-Dade County, claim the state’s ban curtails their ability to counsel congregants about abortion in accordance with their faiths, since Florida law prohibits counseling or encouraging a crime.
The plaintiffs are three rabbis, a United Church of Christ reverend, a Unitarian Universalist minister, an Episcopal Church priest and a Buddhist lama. 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.
A spokesperson for Florida attorney general Ashley Moody did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuits. Marci Hamilton, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania representing the plaintiffs, said the cases are “absolutely essential” to address the tension between abortion restrictions and religious freedom.
A Florida synagogue has also filed a lawsuit challenging the abortion law. That case is pending in a different state court.
The Florida law, which bans abortions after 15 weeks with few exceptions, went into effect on July 1. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the law in April, before the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling overturning the constitutional right to abortion nationwide.
An appeal is now pending over a judge’s ruling last month that the state ban violates the Florida constitution’s privacy rights guarantees. The state’s high court previously said those guarantees protect the right to abortion.
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