Religious Leaders: Abortion Law Violates Constitutional Freedoms

In court documents backing an attempt to strike down an abortion law in Ohio, doctors and religious leaders have spoken out about the safety of the procedure and the religious freedoms that could be infringed by the law.

The briefs were part of a lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court fighting Senate Bill 23, the law that was implemented the same day the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, the court ruling that previously allowed abortion rights nationwide. It prohibits abortion in Ohio after “detectable” heart activity, or at six weeks pregnant.

Doctors have been consistent in their criticisms of the law and of abortion bans in general. The religious leaders multiply the declarations against the prohibition of the abortion with regard to the constitutional freedom of religion.

“Senate Bill 23 denies Ohioans the freedom to practice their long-held and sincere religious beliefs,” according to a brief backed by nearly three dozen rabbis and reverends, as well as Temple Beth Or, the National Council of Jewish Women/Cleveland, the Ohio Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ, and Faith Choice Ohio.

The religious leaders said the law violates the constitution because it “imposes a religious point of view on the people of Ohio and prevents the people of Ohio, including (religious leaders and groups) from freely exercising their religious beliefs.

“This is not a hypothetical denial of religious freedoms,” they wrote. “Many religions recognize the right of a pregnant person to make the deeply personal decision to pursue a pregnancy in accordance with their faith at any stage of the pregnancy.”

Religious advocates across Ohio said they felt compelled to file a case against the law to ‘preserve the right of their followers and their communities to make deeply personal decisions’ and use their own religious beliefs. to make those choices.

In Judaism, for example, religious law requires abortion “when pregnancy endangers the life or health of the pregnant person,” according to the brief, and permits abortion in “a wide range of circumstances.”

“Taking away free will from pregnant women is against Jewish law,” the leaders told the court.

While members of religious communities have insisted on the right to abortion as an essential part of their faith, medical professionals have continued to argue that abortion is an “essential part of comprehensive health care “.

In a separate brief to the court seeking a halt to abortion law enforcement, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine stated bluntly: “When abortion is legal, it’s safe.”

“(Medical groups) oppose Ohio’s six-week abortion ban because it endangers the health and safety of pregnant women in Ohio and imposes burdens and risks extremes to essential reproductive health care providers, without any valid medical justification,” the brief said to the court.

Medical research supports their case in court, the groups wrote in court, and “the overwhelming weight of medical evidence” proves that abortion is a “very safe medical procedure”.

Citing medical journals, state data and other data sources, the physician groups said abortion complication rates average about 2%, with most complications considered ” minor and easily treatable”.

Major complications are “exceptionally rare,” according to their research.

“The risk of death from an abortion is even rarer: nationwide, fewer than 1 in 100,000 patients die from an abortion-related complication,” the brief states, citing CDC reports.

According to ACOG, AMA and SMFM, the harm to patient health comes more from banning abortions, creating consequences for pregnant patients and forcing clinicians to delay needed medical care.

“Each of these findings increases the likelihood of negative physical and psychological health consequences for the patient that could be avoided if abortion were available,” the groups say.

The exceptions included in the bill are also “insufficient” to protect the health of patients, medical professionals have concluded.

“Legislature’s attempt to identify a list of serious risks is necessarily incomplete, misguided and medically ill-founded,” according to the brief.

Ohio state officials named in the lawsuit, such as Attorney General Dave Yost, asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit and allow the abortion law to proceed.

More abortion bans could be on the horizon if the legislature, which is currently in summer recess, passes bills currently in committee to ban the procedures altogether.

Follow the OCJ journalist Susan Tebben on Twitter.

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