Satanic Temple argues abortion is religious right, challenging Texas law
The controversial Texas heartbeat bill, which bans most abortions in the state after six weeks' gestation, is now under attack from the Massachusetts-based group The Satanic Temple, which argues that the law infringes on the group’s religious freedom by imposing an “undue burden” on its "satanic abortion ritual."
“The Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act (TRFRA) provides a mechanism to seek an exemption from any law that restricts the free exercise of religion. Because S.B. 8 imposes an undue burden on the ability of TST members to undergo the Satanic Abortion Ritual, the first step in defending the rights of its members is to seek an exemption under TRFRA. If the state declines to provide such an exemption, TST can then seek judicial relief from the law,” the organization said in a statement shared on its website.
In addition to banning most abortions after six weeks, the law also allows individuals to take civil action against anyone who “performs and induces an abortion” or “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion, including paying for or reimbursing the costs of abortion through insurance or otherwise.”
On Friday, District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble in Austin, Texas, temporarily shielded Planned Parenthood abortion clinics in the state from being sued under the new law in response to a request from the abortion giant, The Associated Press reported.
Guerra’s order specifically shields Planned Parenthood’s clinics from whistleblower lawsuits by the nonprofit group Texas Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group.
In a letter to the Food and Drug Administration last Tuesday, Matthew A. Kezhaya, an attorney for The Satanic Temple, asked that the organization be given a religious exemption to access the abortion-inducing drugs mifepristone and misoprostol without a prescription as part of its “sacramental” abortion ritual.
“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 prescription requirement substantially interferes with the Satanic Abortion Ritual because the Government impedes the members’ access to the medication involved in the ritual,” the letter noted.
Kezhaya suggested that the exemption for the group to use the abortion drugs would be similar to the use of peyote in certain Native American rituals under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
“I am sure Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — who famously spends a good deal of his time composing press releases about Religious Liberty issues in other states — will be proud to see that Texas’ robust Religious Liberty laws, which he so vociferously champions, will prevent future Abortion Rituals from being interrupted by superfluous government restrictions meant only to shame and harass those seeking an abortion," Lucien Greaves, a spokesman and co-founder of The Satanic Temple, noted in a statement to The Christian Post.
“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 Religious Liberty,” Greaves added.
The law went into effect on Sept. 1 after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block the law. The Satanic Temple insisted, however, that they will not be “cowed into silence” on the restrictive law.
“The Satanic Temple stands ready to assist any member that shares its deeply-held religious convictions regarding the right to reproductive freedom. Accordingly, we encourage any member who resides in Texas and wishes to undergo the Satanic Abortion Ritual within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy to contact The Satanic Temple so we may help them fight this law directly,” the atheist group said.
“S.B. 8 does not allow for lawsuits or enforcement of penalties against a woman seeking an abortion. Instead, S.B. 8 is cynically designed to avoid judicial review of the law and creates enforcement mechanisms against TST and its lawyers who dare challenge the law. We will not be cowed into silence by an unjust law or a tyrannical state government,” they said.