In spite of the 20-week abortion ban that passed the House this week, the state of Missouri is having a pretty good week for reproductive rights. One appeals court ruling moves Planned Parenthood closer to being able to re-open their Columbia clinic, and another revived a 2015 lawsuit against the state’s cruel and ridiculous 72-hour waiting period.
In 2015, The Satanic Temple sued the state of Missouri on behalf of a woman known as “Mary Doe,” claiming that the requirement that she undergo a “consultation” and wait 72 hours before being allowed to have an abortion was a violation of her constitutionally protected religious (i.e. Satanic) rights.
Due to the fact that Mary lived several hours away from St. Louis, the requirement that she wait three days meant that she would have to either pay for lodging or drive there (and back) twice, neither of which she had the financial means to do.
The Satanic Temple initially petitioned for injunction against Governor Jay Nixon and Attorney General Chris Koster, claiming that because their religion believes that “one’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone,” the requirement that “Mary” wait 72 hours and accept the materials given to her by the state to read during that period of time were violations of her religious freedom.
When that was dismissed, they filed a federal lawsuit against the state, claiming Mary’s constitutional rights were violated by the statute.
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.
That lawsuit remained in limbo for over a year until, in August of 2016, a judge tossed it out on account of the fact that the plaintiff was no longer pregnant — a ruling which would mean that it was nearly impossible for pretty much anyone to sue the state over the statute, unless they were somehow able to remain pregnant for an entire year.
However, the decision on Tuesday by the Western District Court of Appeals revived the lawsuit:
“In this regard, she claims that the sole purpose of the law is to indoctrinate pregnant women into the belief held by some, but not all, Christians that a separate and unique human being begins at conception,” Judge Thomas Newton wrote in the unanimous opinion. “Because the law does not recognize or include other beliefs, she contends that it establishes an official religion and makes clear that the state disapproves of her beliefs.”
Which it does! If you do not have the religious belief that “life begins at conception,” all this law does is inconvenience you and interfere with your ability to exercise your right to have an abortion. There is no point to it other than to push one particular set of religious views upon everyone.
It absolutely enrages me that this is probably the best way to go about dismantling this ridiculous statute — and not, say, simply recognizing that it is both sick and condescending to assume that a woman doesn’t really know if she wants to have an abortion or not. Trust me, if there is even a remote possibility that you could get pregnant, there is no time when you are not 1,000% sure what you would do were that to happen. If for some reason I found myself knocked up, I promise you I wouldn’t need a waiting period of even three minutes before calling a Lyft and jetting off to Planned Parenthood.
It’s also worth pointing out that the state doesn’t require any such waiting periods for the purchase of guns — so they’re not worried that someone might be full of rage and impulsively buy a buttload of weapons and go on a shooting spree, but they are worried that a woman might “impulsively” abort a pregnancy and then later “regret” it. Can you imagine the uproar if this were anything but abortion?
If the only way to secure reproductive rights for myself and others is by making it a religious freedom issue, I’m in. I just wish it didn’t have to be that way.
(Image via Shutterstock)