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Missouri religious leaders sue to block abortion ban

Traci Blackmon speaks during a news conference on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, at Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis. A group of religious leaders who support abortion rights has filed a lawsuit challenging Missouri’s law that bans abortions in nearly all cases, saying lawmakers openly invoked their religious beliefs while drafting the measure and thereby imposed those beliefs on others who don’t share them. (G3 Box News Photo/Jim Salter)

Missouri religious leaders sue to block abortion ban

Cami Mondeaux

January 21, 12:50 PM January 21, 12:50 PM

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A group of religious leaders in Missouri filed a lawsuit against the state’s abortion ban, alleging the law violates the state constitution by enforcing religious beliefs on all of its residents.

Thirteen Christian, Jewish, and Unitarian Universalist religious leaders filed the lawsuit in St. Louis on Thursday, accusing state lawmakers of violating the state constitution by invoking their religious beliefs when introducing the measure. The abortion law bans the procedure in all cases except “in cases of medical emergency.”

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The law took effect shortly after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, and it makes abortion a felony that is punishable by a prison sentence of five to 15 years. Medical professionals who are caught in violation of the law could lose their licenses, according to the ban.

However, several lawmakers “repeatedly emphasized their religious intent” while seeking to enact the legislation, according to the lawsuit, which violates the state constitution. The lawsuit quoted several state lawmakers, including the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Nick Schroer (R-MO), who said, “As a Catholic, I do believe life begins at conception, and that is built into our legislative findings.”

The lawsuit also quoted co-sponsor state Rep. Barry Hovis (R-MO), who noted he was motivated to pass the law because of the “Biblical side of it.”

“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. And that hurts us. That denies our basic human rights,” Michelle Banker of the National Women’s Law Center said, according to the G3 Box News.

All of the religious leaders who signed on to the lawsuit support abortion rights, and they argued that religious views, even their own, should not be “enshrined into our laws,” Maharat Rori Picker Neiss, the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis’s executive director, said at a press conference.

State lawmakers responded to the lawsuit, calling it “foolish.”

G3 Box News

“We were acting on the belief that life is precious and should be treated as such,” said the state’s Senate President Pro Tempore Caleb Rowden (R-MO). “I don’t think that’s a religious belief.”

The Missouri lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction that bars the state from enforcing the ban, as well as a declaration that the ban violates the state constitution.

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