Interfaith Leaders & Secularists Sue to Stop Missouri’s Abortion Ban

A group of 13 religious leaders from various denominations filed a lawsuit on January 19 in St.Louis, Missouri, challenging the state’s ban on abortion, arguing that lawmakers used their religious beliefs to pass the law and imposed those beliefs on others.

The lawsuit, filed by Americans United for Separation of Church & State and the National Women’s Law Center on behalf of religious leaders from 13 Christian, Jewish, and Unitarian Universalist leaders, argues that some provisions in Missouri’s abortion law violate the state’s constitution and seeks a permanent ruling which would prevent Missouri from enforcing the law.

The religious leaders involved in the lawsuit also said that the ban outlawing abortion with minimal exceptions infringes on their religious freedoms and puts them under the control of "the religious dictates of others."

"In a years-long crusade against abortion access, state officials have weaponized their religious beliefs to control the bodies and deny the autonomy of women and all who can become pregnant, jeopardizing their health, lives, and futures," the Missouri abortion ban lawsuit explained. "Many people of faith support abortion access not despite, but because of, their religion."

What the lawsuit says is that when you legislate your religious beliefs into law, you impose your beliefs on everyone else and force all of us to live by your own narrow beliefs,” the lead attorney of the lawsuit, Michelle Banker of the National Women’s Law Center, also argued. “And that hurts us. That denies our basic human rights.

Missouri officials criticized the ruling and defended the law banning abortion in the state. Andrew Bailey, the Attorney General of Missouri, was also named in the lawsuit and said in a Twitter post that he would “defend the right to life with every tool at my disposal."

"In Harris v. McRae, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected arguments like those raised in this case, and the Missouri Attorney General's Office has won on similar claims at the Missouri Supreme Court," Bailey argued on Twitter, referring to a Supreme Court case where it junked an argument claiming that restricting access to abortion violates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. "We look forward to doing it again. I will never back down from this fight."

Caleb Rowden, a Republican and the Senate President Pro Tempore for Missouri’s Senate, described the lawsuit as “foolish.

We were acting on the belief that life is precious and should be treated as such. I don’t think that’s a religious belief,” Rowden argued.

However, despite these arguments by Rowden and Bailey, the lawsuit claimed that sponsors and creators of the Missouri abortion ban openly and repeatedly discussed and invoked their religious beliefs while drafting the abortion “trigger law” in 2019, stating arguments such as "Life begins at conception. Psalms 119 says …," and "God doesn't give us a choice in this area. He is the Creator of life."

The lawsuit also quoted Nick Schroer, a Republican representative for the MO State House of Representatives and the bill's sponsor, saying, “as a Catholic, I do believe life begins at conception, and that is built into our legislative findings.” The lawsuit also noted that another Republican and co-sponsor, Rep. Barry Hovis, was motivated “from the Biblical side of it.

The Missouri abortion ban lawsuit is just one of the dozens of lawsuits against abortion bans implemented by several conservative states such as Indiana, Kentucky, and Florida after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year. The decision leaves abortion rights to be decided by each state.

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