Satanic Temple challenges Missouri abortion law that forces women to wait three days

Group asks court to rule whether leaflets stating ‘life begins at conception’ given to every woman seeking an abortion can be legal

Tom Barnes
Thursday 11 April 2019 17:01
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Arkansas senator Jason Rapert says it will be 'very cold day in hell' before Satanic group's Baphomet statue allowed on capitol grounds

The Satanic Temple has launched a legal challenge to Missouri laws requiring women to wait three days before undergoing an abortion.

An appeal filed in the Eighth US Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday on behalf of a member of the group, named only as “Judy Doe”, claims rules in the state infringe on First Amendment rights to religious freedom.

Missouri operates a so-called “Informed Consent” abortion process, where women are forced to wait at least 72 hours after requesting the procedure before it is carried out.

In that time, laws require patients are given a booklet which states: “the life of each human being begins at conception”.

They must also be offered the opportunity to listen to the foetal heartbeat and view an ultrasound before an abortion can take place.

A federal judge initially dismissed the case in March, ruling the laws were not discriminatory on religious grounds.

But the temple has now requested the appeals court adjudicate on whether life begins at conception and whether a matter of “religious opinion” can be imposed by law.

“Our appeal presents a challenge for judges who want to defy the law to promote an agenda because the Eighth Circuit will have to overrule itself to deny our claims,” said Satanic Temple co-founder and spokesman Lucien Greaves.

“It is laughable for theocrats to obviously impose their religious viewpoint into law only to claim that their actions are not discriminatory by virtue of the fact that everybody is equally burdened by the restrictions they’ve created. We are confident that reason will prevail upon appeal.”

A similar lawsuit filed by a Satanic Temple member was rejected by the Missouri Supreme Court in February this year.

In that case, a woman known as “Mary Doe” argued the temple taught a woman’s body is “inviolable and subject to her will alone”.

She also stated it was her sincerely-held religious belief a foetus was not part of her body and was not a human being.

However, the court ruled Informed Consent did not violate religious freedoms because parts of it only “happened to coincide” with certain religious tenets on abortion, rather than being based on them.

A spokesman for Missouri attorney general Eric Schmitt at the time said the law was “designed to protect women from undue pressure and coercion during the sensitive decision of whether or not to have an abortion.”

The Satanic Temple, which has 13 chapters across the US and Canada, is a non-theistic moment founded in 2013, which promotes egalitarianism, civil liberties, secularism and reproductive rights.

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Adherants do not believe in a literal Satan, but consider the literary Satan a metaphor for questioning authority and promoting scepticism.

It is also known for its use of satire to challenge Christianity, an action for which its members have faced accusations they do not hold sincere Satanist beliefs and are instead just attempting to prank or “troll” targets.

In August last year, the group unveiled an eight-foot bronze statue of the goat-headed devil figure Baphomet outside the Arkansas state capitol building in protest against a Ten Commandments monument on the site.

In 2016, the temple sought to establish “After School Satan” clubs, in protest against evangelical Christian Good News Clubs, which it considers an erosion of the separation of church and state in public education.

Additional reporting by AP

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