The Satanic Temple, God bless and keep them, is filing a federal lawsuit today against Missouri’s abortion restrictions, where one of their members, known as “Mary Doe,” recently terminated a pregnancy. The Satanic Temple is arguing that Missouri’s abortion laws, specifically its 72-hour waiting period and an “informed consent” booklet given to Doe, violate her free exercise of religion.
The Satanic Temple is, of course, already suing Missouri in state court over the state’s abortion laws, arguing that Doe’s religious beliefs dictate that her body is solely under her own control and that a human life doesn’t begin at conception. When Doe arrived at the St. Louis Planned Parenthood in May to have her abortion, she attempted to bypass the waiting period and the “informed consent” booklet with a letter outlining her religious beliefs:
This letter is my statement that I choose to have an abortion today —now — and without further review of the Booklet. I make that choice voluntarily, freely, and without coercion. I am informed to my satisfaction — both as a religious and a scientific matter — that an abortion will not terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.
That letter didn’t work, hence the state lawsuit. This morning, Satanic Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves — who will also answer to the name “Doug” — sent Jezebel a press release announcing that a federal lawsuit is also necessary, since many states have the same restrictions as Missouri.
In the release, Greaves explains that the Temple is suing because informed consent materials are “nothing more than an obstacle acting upon a decision made with deference to deeply-held religious beliefs:”
“The Informed Consent materials explicitly communicate items of religious opinion that directly contradict the deeply-held beliefs of women within The Satanic Temple. Specifically, the state materials declare fetal tissue — in utero, not viable, and starting at conception — to constitute a ‘unique human being with a life of its own, separate and apart from the woman whose uterus it occupies.’ The question of when life begins is absolutely a religious opinion, and the state has no business proselytizing religious beliefs. Women of The Satanic Temple, deciding to terminate a pregnancy, and informed in their decision to do so by their adherence to Satanic tenets, are having their religious freedoms violated when subjected to state-mandated ‘informed consent’ propaganda. The mandatory abortion waiting-period is imposed with the rationale that women need that time in which to absorb and comprehend the informed consent materials. As we reject the informed consent materials entirely, the waiting period justification is moot, acting as nothing more than an obstacle against acting upon a decision made with deference to deeply-held religious beliefs. In this way, abortion waiting-periods, too, violate our rights to free exercise.”
In a draft of the lawsuit also sent to Jezebel, the Satanic Temple argues that Missouri is acting “under color of state law” to distribute what are essentially religious materials, creating an “excessive entanglement” between the state and anybody who does happen to believe that life begins at conception. “Excessive entanglement” are the magic words here; they’re arguing that Missouri is violating the Establishment Clause, which prohibits the government from endorsing a religious belief, or punishing people for not subscribing to a specific belief.
Greaves also says in the press release that the Satanic Temple is dedicated to acting as “the frontline” against anti-abortion restrictions across the United States: “We anticipate that our efforts will set a precedent in the favor of reproductive rights for generations to come, and bring a sudden halt to the current horrific trend of sanctimonious superstitious assaults on women’s freedom of choice.”
The Satanic Temple hasn’t had much luck getting outfits like the American Civil Liberties Union to help them file suit; instead, they’re crowd-funding money to help with their legal efforts here.
Women protest abortion restrictions in downtown St. Louis, March 8, 1972. It’s almost like nothing has changed. Photo via AP Images