Just one week after the Missouri Supreme Court rejected a Satanist challenge to the state’s medically unnecessary abortion laws, a federal district court has ruled the same way.
The Satanic Temple said that the laws violated their plaintiff’s beliefs which declare that “one’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.” That’s because Missouri requires women to wait 72 hours before obtaining an abortion, hands them a booklet designed to change their minds by saying life begins at conception, requires them to be given the option of looking at an ultrasound which is supposed to guilt-trip them out of having an abortion, and makes her sign a document that says she was given the book and ultrasound opportunity. All of those things are right-wing obstacles in the way of her medical decisions. Even if she goes ahead with the procedure, the items are all designed to make her feel really bad about her decision.
The case that was decided yesterday involved an anonymous plaintiff, “Judy Doe,” which the Satanists used so that the courts couldn’t dismiss the problem on a technicality. It specifically claimed the state was violating Judy Doe’s First Amendment right to “exercise [her] Freedom to Believe Abortion is Not Immoral and act upon their belief without interference or influence by the State of Missouri.” They also said it was a free exercise violation because the state was “forcing Plaintiff to act and forgo acting in a manner that violates her belief in The Satanic Tenets as a condition for getting an abortion in Missouri.”
The judge, Henry Edward Autrey, essentially dismissed the case by saying there was nothing getting in the way of the plaintiff obtaining an abortion. All the things we would consider obstacles were applied without violating the Constitution, and the plaintiff was never forced to do anything that would go against her religious beliefs.
You may not like the law, in other words, but it didn’t single her out for her Satanism.
Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves said to me in a statement that an appeal is in the works:
Missouri is claiming that their mandated “Informed Consent” booklet which states as fact that life begins at conception and that abortion will terminate a unique human life — though contestable as a scientific claim — is merely a belief that overlaps with certain religious beliefs, not necessarily a religious proposition itself. Technically, a non-Christian could believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He shall resurrect at the End of Times, but it is not the place of the government to proselytize such beliefs even if they are to claim an attachment to those beliefs based solely on some inexplicable non-religious preference.
The state has affirmed once more, however, that they do not necessarily expect a woman to read their propaganda or believe it, only that they are being given the opportunity to do so over the course of an imposed three-day waiting period. I believe our appeal will have to challenge the state’s interest in imposing such a wait over a woman’s right to hold religious beliefs, prior to her decision to terminate her pregnancy, that conflict with the state’s proposition, allowing her an exemption from the mandated materials and their attached waiting period. The waiting period serves no function for our plaintiff, and only serves the state’s hope that she will reconsider her position, will feel sufficient guilt and/or shame so as to abandon her beliefs, or otherwise find herself inconvenienced beyond her means to follow through with her decision.
(via Religion Clause. Portions of this article were published earlier)