For a few years now, The Satanic Temple has been using its status as a religion to argue that access to abortion is a faith-based right. It hasn’t worked. Last year, the Supreme Court announced it would not hear a case from Satanists hoping to overturn Missouri’s medically unnecessary abortion laws. Another woman sued Texas officials earlier this year saying the state’s medically unnecessary ultrasound — meant to guilt-trip her into avoiding an abortion — got in the way of her “Satanic Abortion Ritual.” (That case is still ongoing.)
Now they’re trying a new approach.
The Satanic Temple has written a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) arguing that their members should be able to get abortion pills without having to jump through regulatory hoops. As they say in a press release, “Access to Misoprostol requires a prescription, and Mifepristone can only be obtained through an approved prescriber and can only be dispensed in accordance with specific guidelines.” The Satanists say they should have “unfettered” access to the pills for religious use — something the FDA has already approved in a different situation:
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was instigated and enacted to assure Native Americans could have unfettered access to peyote for their religious rituals. Consistent with this purpose, The Satanic Temple wants unfettered access to abortifacients for its religious use. Given that peyote is a Schedule I drug with no accepted medical use, TST’s request for access to prescription drugs is an even more reasonable ask that should be granted under Federal law.
TST’s membership uses these products in a sacramental setting. The Satanic Abortion Ritual is a sacrament which surrounds and includes the abortive act. It is designed to combat feelings of guilt, doubt, and shame and to empower the member to assert or reassert power and control over their own mind and body. The REMS [risk evaluation and mitigation strategy] prescription requirement substantially interferes with the Satanic Abortion Ritual because the Government impedes the members’ access to the medication involved in the ritual.
In other words, the Satanists wouldn’t be using these drugs in inappropriate ways. Anyone who wants the abortion would still have to go to a doctor first to make sure there are no health problems, and after the medication is taken, the member would return to the doctor for a follow-up evaluation. Which is to say: If there are health-related concerns about letting the Satanists have access to these drugs, there’s no need to worry.
Attorney Matthew A. Kezhaya says that if the FDA doesn’t affirm their request within 60 days, they will file a lawsuit. Even if that approach doesn’t work, The Satanic Temple isn’t about to let this issue fade away for them:
TST co-founder and spokesperson Lucien Greaves explains, “Soft-skulled politicians have found an easily-manipulated voter base in religiously devout evangelicals who will happily overlook any politician’s corruption, no matter how depraved, in exchange for assaults on reproductive rights that align with their religious views. Now, more than ever, it is important that we not only defend reproductive rights within existing facilities that provide abortion access, but proactively, expanding our role, in our capacity as a religious entity. We strive to provide any of the tools we can to ensure that we are unimpeded from executing the abortion ritual as we see fit, in deference to our deeply-held beliefs that hold bodily autonomy sacrosanct, and science the arbiter of truth claims. The battle for abortion rights is largely a battle of competing religious viewpoints, and our viewpoint that the nonviable fetus is part of the impregnated host is fortunately protected under Religous Liberty laws.”
As much as this seems like a long shot, consider all the reasons the FDA or a court might reject the case. The obvious answers already have rebuttals. The Satanists say there shouldn’t be any health concerns, that the FDA has allowed a similar (riskier!) approval in the past, and that it’s not the role of a judge to say their sincerely held religious beliefs don’t count. So… worth a try?
If they get the approval they seek, you can bet a lot of women in red states — where Republican lawmakers are doing everything in their power to block access to health care — will suddenly start praising Satan. If and when that happens, they’ll have conservative Christians to thank for the conversion.