The Missouri Supreme Court has ruled against The Satanic Temple in a case that involved the Satanists claiming a religious right to an abortion in spite of the state’s medically unnecessary 72-hour waiting period.
It got a lot more complicated when she filed the lawsuit because The Satanic Temple, to which Mary belonged, says that “one’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.” Therefore, she claimed that the law requiring a 72-hour waiting period violated her religious beliefs. She was effectively taking a page out of the conservative Christian playbook in order to make abortions more accessible.
That lawsuit was soon dismissed, so she filed a federal lawsuit… which was also tossed out in 2016 because the judge said she wasn’t pregnant anymore, so the case was moot. (By that logic, though, could any woman ever sue over this problem?)
In October of 2017, an appeals court revived the case and kicked it up the state’s Supreme Court.
… the informed consent law neither requires a pregnant woman to read the booklet in question nor requires her to have or pay for an ultrasound. It simply provides her with that opportunity. And, while Ms. Doe mentions the 72-hour waiting period, she does not allege how that waiting period conflicts with her religion nor that it was an undue burden, nor did she seek to enjoin its enforcement prior to the expiration of that waiting period. The circuit court did not err in dismissing Ms. Doe’s petition for failure to state a claim
In short, the law didn’t make her do anything that violated her religious beliefs. Sure, the state offered her a useless ultrasound. Sure, the state offered her an anti-abortion booklet. But the choice to have an abortion was always hers, and any inconvenience on her end had nothing to do with religion. All women have to deal with it.
It’s not exactly uplifting. Conservative Christians are basically writing laws that all women in the state have to follow — which is to say they’re putting up obstacles in the way of all women who seek abortions — but because those obstacles don’t discriminate on the basis of religion, this particular plaintiff has no basis to say the laws were violating her religious beliefs.
The Satanic Temple’s Lucien Greaves held nothing back in an email to me, expressing frustration with the ruling:
It’s a ruling that is both cowardly and fundamentally corrupt.
The Court clearly failed in its most basic duty to adjudicate based upon principles that can be equally and universally applied regardless of viewpoint, dishonestly claiming that the proposition that life begins at conception is devoid of religious context, and arrogantly asserting that a 72-hour waiting period presents no undue burden for those looking to terminate a pregnancy.
The implications of this ruling are clear: the state upholds the right to proselytize, and they also maintain the right to place activities motivated by religious belief — in this case, arriving at the decision to terminate a pregnancy based upon deliberative reference to our tenets — on their own time schedule.
I doubt, however, that the Court would be dismissive of the imposition of the dissemination of state-endorsed literature clearly inspired by a minority religious viewpoint, nor do I feel they would rule in favor of an employer who decided to move the Christmas holiday to July for the convenience of the corporation.
The upshot, however, is that the Court has asserted in their ruling that women seeking to terminate a pregnancy are not required to receive an ultrasound or listen to the fetal heartbeat, they are only required to be offered the opportunity. This was unclear before, but this precedent clearly indicates that women may deny this “opportunity.”