… Planned Parenthood of St. Louis is currently the only abortion provider in the state. Not only does Mary live hundreds of miles away, but there is also a dehumanizing 72 hour waiting period between her initial appointment and the procedure itself. This means that Mary must either find lodging or make the trip twice. She doesn’t have the means to do this.
As it turned out, though, Missouri also had its own version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which provides a defense for people who believe the law restricts their free exercise of religion.
And The Satanic Temple, to which Mary belongs, says that “one’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.” So the 72-hour waiting period violated her beliefs.
Last month, Mary visited Planned Parenthood requesting to have an abortion. When they told her she had to wait three days, she “presented the clinic with a waiver of exemption” from The Satanic Temple.
It didn’t work. They rejected it. So Mary and the Satanic Temple petitioned for injunction against Governor Jay Nixon and Attorney General Chris Koster.
According to The Satanic Temple’s Lucien Greaves,
… we found it horrifically difficult to secure legal counsel on necessarily short notice. Most every referral and suggestion led us back to the ACLU, which has mysteriously chosen to ignore us entirely. Having exhausted all options we were aware of for pro bono representation, TST has had to retain legal counsel at our own expense…
They’re raising funds on behalf of Mary right here.
What has happened since then? Well, Nixon and Koster had one month to respond to the injunction… and they finally did last night. They filed a motion to dismiss the injunction:
Plaintiff doesn’t allege that she was substantially motivated by her religious beliefs to seek an abortion. Nor does she allege that she was substantially motivated by her religious beliefs to do so within 72 hours of deciding to end her pregnancy. Rather, Plaintiff alleges that she disagrees with the content of the written materials Missouri law requires abortion providers to give women seeking abortions at least 72 hours before an abortion is performed. But even assuming Plaintiff’s disagreement with the content of those written materials is substantially motivated by her religious beliefs, her disagreement is neither an act nor a failure to act. Nothing in §.188.027 requires Plaintiff to agree with the content of the state-mandated written materials anyway. The statute doesn’t even require that Plaintiff read the materials. It merely requires that the materials are presented to her at least 72 hours before the abortion is performed.
In short: Why is this a big deal? Sure, we have a law, but it doesn’t really matter, so why complain about it?!
It’s one hell of a way to ignore the very real problem that waiting 72 hours before obtaining an abortion is unnecessary and nothing but an obstacle for woman who wish to have an abortion.
Greaves said he would be speaking with his lawyers about how they would respond.
While that state lawsuit is still being dealt with, The Satanic Temple isn’t letting up. They’ve decided to tackle this problem in another way.
This morning, according to a press release, they filed a federal lawsuit against the state. (***Update***: Here’s the lawsuit.) Instead of dealing with Missouri’s RFRA laws (which the state lawsuit did), this federal suit says Missouri’s laws violate Mary and the Satanic Temple’s Constitutional rights. According to a draft of the lawsuit:
The creation, distribution and enforcement of the Missouri Lectionary promotes the Missouri Tenets in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment because the State of Missouri is using its power to regulate abortion to promote some, but not all, religious beliefs that Human Tissue is, from conception, a separate and unique human being whose destruction is morally wrong.
Neither the Missouri Tenets nor the Missouri Lectionary promote the religious belief that Human Tissue is part of a woman’s body that may be removed in good conscience without consideration of the current or future condition of the Human Tissue.
Plaintiffs have been and will be irreparably injured by that violation because the Missouri Tenets and Missouri Lectionary are forced upon them with the intent and purpose to influence their Freedom to Believe When Human Life Begins.
They’re fighting the abortion restrictions in two separate ways and a victory either way would open the door to broader abortion rights for women. It also forces the governor to have to explain why his state should be able to override someone’s religious rights… even if that religion happens to be Satanic.
Should be interesting to see how it plays out.
(Image via Shutterstock. Large portions of this article were posted earlier)