Jewish women cite faith in contesting Kentucky abortion ban

Oct 6, 2022, 2:15 AM | Updated: 3:01 pm

FILE - Abortion rights supporters chant their objections at the Kentucky Capitol on April 13, 2022,...

FILE - Abortion rights supporters chant their objections at the Kentucky Capitol on April 13, 2022, in Frankfort, Ky. Kentucky's sweeping abortion ban was challenged Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022, by three Jewish women who brought a lawsuit claiming it violates their religious rights under the state's constitution. (AP Photo/Bruce Schreiner, File)

(AP Photo/Bruce Schreiner, File)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s sweeping abortion ban was challenged Thursday by three Jewish women who brought a lawsuit arguing that it violates their religious rights under the state’s constitution.

The legal challenge, filed in state court in Louisville, says the state’s Republican-dominated legislature “imposed sectarian theology” by prohibiting nearly all abortions. The lawsuit bears similarities to legal challenges to abortion bans in at least two other states.

“Plaintiffs’ religious beliefs have been infringed: they are Jewish and Jewish law (“halakha”) asked and answered the question of fetal personhood thousands of years ago and rabbis, commentators and Jewish legal scholars have repeatedly confirmed these answers in the intervening millenia,” the Kentucky lawsuit reads. “While a fetus is deserving of some level of respect under halakha, the birth giver takes precedence. Jews have never believed that life begins at conception.”

Kentucky’s Republican attorney general, Daniel Cameron, signaled he will fight the lawsuit, which names him as a defendant. Cameron has defended the state’s abortions restrictions in various courts, touting his anti-abortion stance in his campaign for governor. The gubernatorial election will be in 2023.

“The General Assembly has made it clear that Kentucky will protect unborn life and these laws are an important part of the commonwealth,” Cameron said Thursday in a statement.

It’s the latest attempt to strike down Kentucky’s far-reaching abortion prohibitions, but the newest suit offers another legal twist by basing the challenge on religious grounds.

Kentucky’s Supreme Court has set a November hearing in another case challenging the abortion restrictions. The high court allowed the near-total ban to remain in place while it reviews that case.

Also, abortion will be on the ballot next month when Kentuckians decide the fate of a proposed constitutional amendment that would eliminate the right to abortion in the state.

The lawsuit filed Thursday in Jefferson County Circuit Court in Louisville delves into theology and medical science. The question of when human life begins, it reads, “is a religious and philosophical question without universal beliefs across different religions.”

“Judaism has never defined life beginning at conception,” the suit said, adding that “millenia of commentary from Jewish scholars has reaffirmed Judaism’s commitment to reproductive rights.”

“Under Jewish law, a fetus does not become a human being or child until birth,” it said.

The abortion ban also violates Kentucky’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the women said in their lawsuit. That law states that government “shall not substantially burden a person’s freedom of religion” unless it proves a compelling interest and uses “the least restrictive means” to do so, it noted.

The suit also claims that Kentucky’s abortion law infringes on constitutional religious rights in regard to use of in vitro fertilization. Two plaintiffs have a child conceived through IVF, the suit said.

The IVF process often results in surplus embryos that must either be kept frozen at high costs or discarded by the clinics with the consent of the donors, the lawsuit reads.

“Plaintiff’s religious beliefs demand that they have more children through IVF, yet the law forces plaintiffs to spend exorbitant fees to keep their embryos frozen indefinitely or face potential felony charges” under the state’s fetal homicide law, the suit said.

“This dilemma forces plaintiffs to abandon their sincere religious beliefs of having more children by limiting access to IVF and substantially burdens their right to freely exercise these sincerely held religious beliefs,” it added.

The Kentucky case echoes lawsuits that were filed in Florida and Indiana to block state abortion bans on the grounds that the measures violate religious freedom.

Kentucky’s legislature enacted a “trigger law” banning nearly all abortions that took effect after the U.S. Supreme Court Court in June stripped women’s constitutional protections for abortion. The only exception under the Kentucky law is when the health of the mother is threatened.

Lawmakers also passed a separate six-week ban. Those laws already are being challenged by the two remaining clinics in Kentucky that provide abortions, both in Louisville.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - A person shows their scan card for their personal selection numbers for a ticket for a Power...

L.B. Gilbert

$1.2 billion Powerball drawing nears after 11 weeks without a winner

A $1.2 billion Powerball jackpot will again be up for grabs Wednesday night after an 11-week stretch without a big winner

8 hours ago

FILE - A man walks through wildfire wreckage in Lahaina, Hawaii, Aug. 11, 2023. Federal authorities...

Associated Press

Cleanup from Maui fires complicated by island’s logistical challenges, cultural significance

Cleanup of areas destroyed in the Maui wildfires could end up being one of the most complex to date, federal officials said, given the island's significant cultural sites, its rich history including a royal residence and possibly remains of people who died in the disaster.

15 hours ago

Former President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom at New York Supreme Court, Monday, Oct. 2, 2023...


New York judge issues limited gag order after Trump makes disparaging post about court clerk

A New York judge imposed a limited gag order on defendant Donald Trump Tuesday after the former president disparaged a key court staffer during his civil business fraud trial.

1 day ago

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks during the introduction of the integration of Microsoft Bing sea...

Suman Naishadham, Associated Press

Microsoft CEO says unfair practices by Google led to its dominance as a search engine

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said Monday that unfair tactics used by Google led to its dominance as a search engine, tactics that in turn have thwarted his company’s rival program, Bing.

2 days ago

This undated photo provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Portland Field Office shows a ...

Associated Press

Man accused of kidnapping Seattle woman, kidnapping charges in separate case

A man accused of abducting a woman in Seattle, driving her hundreds of miles to his home in Oregon and locking her in a makeshift cinder block cell 

2 days ago

A person browses offerings in the Raven's Nest Treasure shop in Pike Place Market, Dec. 10, 2021, i...

Associated Press

Man who faked Native American heritage to sell his art in Seattle sentenced to probation

A Washington state man who falsely claimed Native American heritage to sell his artwork at downtown Seattle galleries was sentenced Wednesday to federal probation and community service.

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife...

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is a busy month on the sports calendar and also holds a very special designation: Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Ziply Fiber...

Dan Miller

The truth about Gigs, Gs and other internet marketing jargon

If you’re confused by internet technologies and marketing jargon, you’re not alone. Here's how you can make an informed decision.

Education families...

Education that meets the needs of students, families

Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) is a program of Omak School District that is a full-time online public school for students in grades K-12.

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Jewish women cite faith in contesting Kentucky abortion ban