Satanic Temple Challenges Missouri’s Abortion Law

Satanic Temple

[It’s important to note that The Satanic Temple does not worship Satan. According to their mission statement, “The mission of The Satanic Temple is to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will.” -- ed.]

For over two years, The Satanic Temple (TST) has pursued a lawsuit against the Governor and Attorney General of Missouri, alleging that the State’s mandated “informed consent” materials, ultrasound, and 72-hour waiting period violated a member of The Satanic Temple’s First Amendment rights. In January, Missouri’s Solicitor General John Sauer said women getting abortions in Missouri aren’t required by law to get an ultrasound first. Sauer stated that they're only required to be given the opportunity to have ultrasound performed.

According to The Satanic Temple website, TST’s case in state court leverages the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which was used by Hobby Lobby when they argued that having to provide their employees with health insurance that covered birth control offended their religious beliefs. The Missouri requirements similarly impose practices that violate the religious beliefs of Mary Doe.

Doe was required by state law to take 72 hours to review a booklet of information before undergoing the procedure. The booklet reads: "The life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being." Those procedures are in contrary to Mary’s believes in the following two Satanic Temple tenets:

  • One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.
  • Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.

"When the state turns to her and says, 'Would you like to hear the heartbeat?' They’re preaching from the pulpit," James MacNaughton, the Satanic Temple's attorney, told Riverfront Times in September. "That’s an imposition. It’s not the business of the state to be a preacher."

According to Missouri law, consent to an abortion is voluntary and informed and given freely and without coercion if, and only if, at least seventy-two hours prior to the abortion (except explaining the immediate and long-term medical risks to the woman) also “provide the woman with the opportunity to view” an ultrasound. 

The Satanic Temple reports:

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a substantial burden exists where the state “puts substantial pressure on an adherent to modify his behavior and to violate his beliefs.” This is a clear example of the imposition of a substantial burden under RFRA.

However, the State is permitted to burden Mary’s free exercise of religion if they have a compelling interest to do so and are using the least restrictive means possible. Even if the State claims they have a compelling interest in preserving “unborn life,” the burdens are certainly not the least restrictive means possible.

Religion is already allowed to make exceptions that are detrimental to children and their health. For instance, religious objections to vaccination are still recognized in far too many states or Jehovah’s Witnesses still refuse transfusion. Giving a woman, who does not believe that a fetus is the same as a living human being, the right to perform an abortion under its own rules is not even as dangerous as the exceptions above. It remains to be seen if The Satanic Temple will persuade the jury to correct the injustice and stop “an unconstitutional indoctrination program.”

Photo Credits: The Satanic Temple

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