Unfolding New Dimensions in Litigation
National Council of Jewish Women has been at the forefront of championing women’s rights in the courts. However, this work has intensified since the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning the right to abortion. Our efforts center on emphasizing the diverse religious perspectives on reproductive rights and focusing on the real-world implications of legal decisions.
Amicus Briefs – Advocating Beyond the Case:
An amicus brief is a brief (legal document) submitted to a court by outside individuals or organizations with a vested interest in the outcome. These briefs provide additional information, insights, and perspectives to help judges understand the wider implications of their decisions. At NCJW, in collaboration with trusted partners, we craft and submit these briefs to ensure that a diversity of religious perspectives on reproductive freedom are represented and considered during legal deliberations.
Clergy Privilege – Safeguarding Spiritual Guidance:
Clergy privilege is a legal concept that could protect private discussions between religious leaders and their followers. The Dobbs ruling resulted in, among other things, concerns about the legal implications of clergy discussing reproductive rights with their congregants. In response, NCJW is actively researching state-specific nuances of this privilege, providing guidance to help ensure that reproductive healthcare-related conversations remain confidential and protected.
State Laws – Deciphering Reproductive Freedom Laws:
State laws and constitutions greatly influence reproductive health, rights, and justice. Through careful research and partnerships, NCJW is gathering information about state reproductive freedom protections. A key focus area is the state Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs). RFRA was originally intended to protect free exercise of religion. However, RFRAs are now being used to roll back abortion protections. Our mission is to ensure reproductive rights are accessible and aren’t limited by narrowly interpreted religious doctrines.
Our Advocacy for Reproductive Freedom: NCJW’s Amicus Briefs
- Florida (March 2023): We filed an amicus brief in the case, Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida on behalf of itself, its staff, and its patients, et al. v. State of Florida, et al. brought by Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), ACLU, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA). Our arguments emphasized that religious traditions don’t have a unified stance on when life begins and that individuals have moral rights to decide about terminating a pregnancy.
Update: The Florida legislature passed a six-week abortion ban on April 14, 2023, despite our advocacy.
- Georgia (February 2023): We filed a brief in the case, State of Georgia v. SisterSong, Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, arguing against Georgia’s six-week abortion ban, HB 481. Our brief underscores that Georgians have diverse religious beliefs about abortion and that the state law is restrictive.
Update: The Georgia Supreme Court has allowed the six-week abortion ban to remain in effect as legal challenge continues to work its way through the courts.
- Kentucky (October 2022): We filed an interfaith amicus brief in the case, Daniel Cameron v. EMW Women’s Surgical Center, P.S.C. et al., which challenges two statutes that nearly eliminated abortion access in Kentucky.
Update: The Kentucky Supreme Court remanded the case back to the trial court level, and the case is still in progress.
- Indiana (March 2023): In the case Anonymous Plaintiffs v. The Medical Licensing Board of Indiana, we’re challenging Senate Enrolled Act 1 (S.E.A. 1), Indiana’s abortion ban. We’ve emphasized the sincerity of claimants’ religious beliefs.
Update: The case is still in progress, representing diverse faiths against the ban.
Cases with Positive Outcomes:
- Ohio (June 2022): We joined an amicus brief with Preterm-Cleveland v. David Yost, challenging Senate Bill 23 (SB 23), which banned abortions from six weeks.
Update: The Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas granted a temporary restraining order against SB 23, restoring abortions up to 22 weeks in Ohio.
- Indiana (May 2023): Along with Columbia’s Law, Rights, and Religion Project, we led and filed an amicus brief in the case Doe v. Attorney General of Indiana. The brief argues against Indiana’s tissue disposition law, which mandates the interment or cremation of fetal tissue post-abortion or miscarriage.
Update: The US Supreme Court declined to hear the case.