Satanists file "urgent" federal lawsuit over Missouri abortion restrictions

The Satanic Temple sees itself as the "frontline" in the fight against waiting periods & other antiabortion laws

Published June 23, 2015 7:08PM (EDT)

Sculpture created by the Satanic Temple               (MSNBC)
Sculpture created by the Satanic Temple (MSNBC)

The Satanic Temple, always so outspoken in its support for women's right to reproductive choice, filed a lawsuit in federal court on Tuesday challenging Missouri's "informed consent" and waiting period laws, which the temple claims violate members' sincerely held religious beliefs. The case centers on a satanist identified as Mary Doe, who was forced to comply with the state's abortion restrictions when she sought to terminate a pregnancy last month, despite seeking an exemption upon her arrival at a Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis.

The lawsuit claims Missouri's standards for when life begins (at conception) as well as its classification of non-viable fetal tissue ("a unique human being with a life of its own, separate and apart from the woman whose uterus it occupies") promote a particular set of religious beliefs in violation of the Establishment Clause, which prohibits the government from doing precisely that. According to Satanic Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves, the "informed consent" materials don't just require women to comply with certain religious viewpoints, but also -- in the case of satanists -- to contradict their own belief that women can make up their minds themselves.

“The question of when life begins is absolutely a religious opinion, and the state has no business proselytizing religious beliefs," Greaves said in a statement. "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."

Additionally, the temple claims Missouri's 72-hour abortion waiting period also violates members' right to free exercise of religion, by denying access to abortion when a woman (and, presumably, a medical professional) determines she is ready to terminate a pregnancy. "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," Greaves explained. "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.”

Temple representatives have already filed a state lawsuit against Missouri, but the federal suit is meant to challenge similar antiabortion laws across the country. So far, the Satanic Temple has been effectively denied representation by the ACLU and is crowd-funding to cover legal fees. Money aside, satanists seem to see no reason to stop fighting anti-choice legislation.

“With new restrictions being imposed by theocratically inclined legislatures across the nation, our lawsuit couldn't be any more urgent or crucial," Greaves said. "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."

By Jenny Kutner

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