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Editorial: On abortion, Florida's party of 'religious freedom' tramples over non-Christians' beliefs

Miami Herald Editorial Board, Miami Herald on

Published in Political News

When Florida imposed a 15-week abortion ban in April, the state Senate president’s office released a statement titled: “Increased protection for unborn children signed into law.”

Republican Senate President Wilton Simpson also said about the measure:

“After 15 weeks, that is a child. And so, the argument is, should you kill a baby after 15 weeks because it was (conceived) under certain circumstances?”

But this notion of an unborn child isn’t universally shared. It was pushed first by Roman Catholics and later by evangelicals in their decadeslong efforts to end abortion rights. That Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the ban at a Christian church in Central Florida makes clear to whom it appeals.

With the U.S. Supreme Court’s expected overturn of Roe v. Wade, the Christian right’s view of abortion as murder, and a sin, will be enshrined into law in many red states. Those who don’t share that belief will be forced to follow them.

Not all religions agree on the beginning of life, and their attitudes on abortion are more nuanced than anti-abortion rights groups seem to acknowledge. Even among Christians, there are different views on the issue, as groups such as Catholics for Choice will attest.

 

That was made clear in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court signed by Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and other groups that stated, “Numerous religions teach that the decision to terminate a pregnancy is a woman’s moral prerogative, and that abortion is morally permissible or even required under certain circumstances.”

A lawsuit filed against Florida’s abortion ban argues that it violates the religious-freedom rights of members of Boynton Beach’s Jewish Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor. The lawsuit was filed by Rabbi Barry Silver, a lawyer and former Democratic state representative, who calls himself a “social activist Rabbi-rouser” on his website.

It’s too soon to tell whether the challenge will stand up in court. But it highlights the hypocrisy of Florida Republicans, who so adamantly defend religious freedom while forcing their set of beliefs on Floridians. Conservatives have been careful to not mention religion when debating abortion, but the origins and arguments in their fight to take reproductive rights away are clear.

“Religious freedom is not simply something that applies to evangelical Protestants,” said Samira K. Mehta, an assistant professor and program director at the University of Colorado Boulder who specializes in American religions with a focus on Judaism and Protestantism.

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