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New Abortion Law Being Challenged in Leon by Lawyer-Rabbi

Rabbi Barry Silver Esq., from Boca Raton, has challenged Florida’s new abortion law that took effect July 1, and he’s doing it on some very novel legal grounds.

// July 18, 2022,

6:01 pm

Updated:July 18, 2022

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It almost sounds like a bad joke from the old days: “A rabbi and a lawyer walk into a bar…”

But in this case, it is no joke and the rabbi and the lawyer are one of the same person.

Rabbi Barry Silver Esq., from Boca Raton, has challenged Florida’s new abortion law that took effect July 1, and he’s doing it on some very novel legal grounds. 

The bill – House Bill  5 – is among the strictest state abortion prohibitions nationwide. The bill contains no exceptions for rape or incest, but it does provide an exception if it is necessary to save the life of the mother.

Silver is challenging the law on religious grounds. He argues that the First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution prohibits an established religion and guarantees the free exercise of religion.

Thus, he argues that Judaism holds personhood begins with the first breath and allows, even mandates, abortion at all stages of pregnancy to protect the life of the woman or to prevent a shortened and painful life for the fetus after birth in the case of fatal fetal abnormalities like Tay-Sachs disease

Silver also argues that as a rabbi counseling for abortion, he could be criminally liable under the new law.  It limits the time for abortion to 15 weeks, which is 13 weeks of gestation, from the former 24-weeks limit in Roe v. Wade and subsequent statute. 

The complaint was originally assigned to Circuit Judge Layne Smith but transferred to Judge J. Lee Marsh on June 30. 

Silver has maintained numerous lawsuits defending reproductive rights including one in Leon County against the parental notice law. In the early 1990s, Silver represented the Florida National Organization for Women for a fee contingent on winning from the defendants, 

Silver was the first to use civil RICO law (Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) against abortion vigilantes. The action resulted in an attorney’s fee award against the defendants Randall Terry, Operation Rescue, and many others and ended their clinic blockades forever. 

In awarding Barry Silver $216,000 in attorney’s fees for his pro bono representation over more than five years – despite numerous death threats and vandalism to his car and Florida Bar complaints — the court explained in the attached order:

“This is a public interest case. There are few attorneys that would have undertaken this case as a pure contingency case, probably none in this circuit other than Mr. Silver who would have seen it through to the end.

“Time and labor were considerable.  The difficulty of this case is reflected in the number of hours it generated. The requisite skill necessary required an experienced attorney in civil rights matters dedicated to the case…

“The results were very significant.  The benefits did not apply to a private individual but applied to the public at large in Palm Beach County

“The experience, reputation and ability of the attorney are well known in the area for undertaking cases of this type.”

House Bill 5 is certainly no joke, nor is the attorney/rabbi challenging it.

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