Judge Declines to Block Florida’s 15-Week Abortion Ban in Case Brought by Clergy Members

Universalist Unitarian Church Rev. Tom Capo, a pro-choice clergy, inside the chapel of his
Taimy Alvarez for The Washington Post via Getty Images

A Miami judge declined to block Florida’s 15-week abortion ban, HB 5, on Friday in a lawsuit brought by clergy members of several different faiths.

The clergy members — three rabbis, a Unitarian Universalist minister, an Episcopal Church priest, a Buddhist lama, and a United Church of Christ reverend — filed separate lawsuits against the State of Florida in August claiming that the law violates their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Those lawsuits have since been consolidated into one case.

The clergy members argue in their complaint that the law puts them “at risk of prosecution for counseling women, girls, and families to obtain an abortion beyond the narrow bounds of HB 5 as someone who aids and abets the crime.”

“Under Florida’s aiding and abetting law, they commit the crime itself by counseling in favor of it,” the complaint continues.

Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman in the Miami-Dade County court disagreed with the plaintiffs and denied a request from clergy leaders to issue a temporary injunction against Florida’s pro-life law. A temporary injunction would have blocked the enforcement of the 15-week abortion ban during litigation.

“The plaintiffs in these consolidated actions are under no immediate and ongoing risk of prosecution,” Hanzman said.

Rabbi and plaintiff Gayle Pomerantz told WPLG Local 10 that she believes the judge “ruled on just one aspect of the motion and not in its entirety.”

“I think that the bill challenges our constitutional rights. It challenges separation of church and state,” Pomerantz said.

The state’s pro-life law faced a challenge last summer when a judge temporarily blocked the 15-week ban days after it took effect. However, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis immediately appealed that judge’s order, which automatically nullified the ruling.

When DeSantis signed the bill in April of 2022, he called it a “great piece of legislation which represents the most significant protections for life in the state’s modern history.”

“[The bill] protects the rights of unborn children starting at 15 weeks. This is a time where these babies have beating hearts. They can move, they can taste, they can see, they can feel pain, they can suck their thumb, and they have brain waves,” he said.

The case is Pomerantz v. Florida, No. 154464609 in the Circuit Court of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.