Satanic Temple continues legal battle against Missouri abortion law after court defeat

The Satanic Temple - Chicago Chapter statue erected at the Illinois capitol, photo from December 4, 2018.
The Satanic Temple - Chicago Chapter statue erected at the Illinois capitol, photo from December 4, 2018. | (Facebook/The Satanic Temple - Chicago Chapter)

The Satanic Temple is continuing its legal battle against a Missouri law that requires women to wait 72 hours before getting an abortion after its case on behalf of a Satanic Temple member was struck down earlier this year by the state's supreme court. 

The nontheistic organization, which boasts of itself for providing "legal protection against laws that unscientifically restrict women's reproductive autonomy," has filed an appeal against Missouri's informed consent law to the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The anonymous plaintiff, Judy Doe, alleges that her rights under the U.S. Constitution's Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses were violated by a Missouri law requiring women to be provided with a booklet that teaches "the life of each human being begins at conception." 

The law also requires abortion providers to give women the chance to view an ultrasound and hear the baby's heartbeat. However, the Missouri high court ruled against the Satanic Temple in February, arguing that the woman did not have to read the booklet and could have declined to have an ultrasound. 

In a press release, the Satanic Temple argued that the Missouri Supreme Court's decision did not take into account a 1989 decision handed down by the Eighth Circuit in the case of Webster v. Reproductive Health Services.

Although the case upholds a Missouri law imposing restrictions on the use of state funds, facilities and employees in performing or assisting abortions, the Satanic Temple contends that the 1989 ruling found it to be impermissible for the state to adopt a theory that life begins at conception. 

However, the Eighth Circuit ruled that the preamble to the Missouri law stating that life begins at conception had not been applied in a concrete manner to restrict abortion, according to Oyez

“The only way for The Satanic Temple to lose this case is if the Eighth Circuit reverses itself, which is highly unusual, or goes to impossibly great lengths to avoid ruling on the issues it is being presented with," Satanic Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves said in a statement. "While I don’t put it past the courts, I am optimistic that the Eighth Circuit will adhere to the law and The Satanic Temple will prevail.”

Greaves contends that the state is trying to dictate theories to its residents rather than allowing them to uphold their own "personal theory." 

"The first is that the life of each human being begins at conception and the second is that abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human," Greaves said. 

"While the State may make laws that promote health and safety, The Satanic Temple insists that the state may not dictate its beliefs in a manner that 'violates [Judy Doe’s] right to choose her own theory of when life begins without government input ... and violates the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause' by demanding written acknowledgment by the patient of the State’s doctrine."

Greaves explained that the Satanic Temple believes that decisions regarding a person's body should be based on the "best scientific understanding of the world, even if the science does not comport with the religious or political beliefs of others."

According to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, there are 34 states that require women to receive counseling before getting an abortion while 27 states also require mothers to wait various periods of time after counseling sessions before they can go ahead with an abortion. 

Additionally, a total of 11 states require that educational materials be given to a woman before an abortion while 19 require that materials be offered to a mother before an abortion. 

The Satanic Temple is a movement founded in 2013 that has over a dozen chapters in North America. Earlier this year, the Satanic Temple was granted tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service. 

Not to be confused with the Church of Satan, the Satanic Temple explains in a FAQ page that its members do not “believe in the existence of Satan or the supernatural.”

"To embrace the name Satan is to embrace rational inquiry removed from supernaturalism and archaic tradition-based superstitions," the FAQ page reads.  "Satanists should actively work to hone critical thinking and exercise reasonable agnosticism in all things. Our beliefs must be malleable to the best current scientific understandings of the material world — never the reverse."

Follow Samuel Smith on Twitter: @IamSamSmith

or Facebook: SamuelSmithCP

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