A state judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Satanic organization challenging Missouri’s 72-hour waiting period and informed consent laws on abortion. The suit was filed on behalf of an anonymous Missouri woman who claims that the laws violate the “free exercise” of her Satanic beliefs.
The litigation was initiated by a New York-based group called the Satanic Temple. The group says it is “an association of politically aware Satanists, secularists, and advocates for individual liberty.” The Satanic Temple has gained national attention through their efforts to erect a Satanic monument adjacent to the display of the Ten Commandments outside the Oklahoma State Capitol.
The lawsuit challenges a Missouri statute adopted in 2010 that greatly strengthened the informed consent requirements for women seeking abortions. The new law, which was advanced by the Missouri Family Policy Council, specified that abortion-minded women be provided with an informational packet 24 hours before an abortion is performed.
That packet must include materials explaining the development of the unborn child, fetal pain, and the health risks to women who undergo an abortion. The packet must also include information about alternatives to abortion, including the names and contact information for pregnancy resource centers and adoption agencies. The woman must also be presented with an opportunity to view an ultrasound of the unborn child.
The lawsuit further contests another statute adopted by the Missouri General Assembly in 2014 which extended the waiting period for an abortion after a woman receives the informational materials from 24 to 72 hours. That law, also promoted by the Missouri Family Policy, was designed to provide women with adequate time to examine the materials provided by the state and fully consider their options.
The anonymous woman, cited as Mary Doe, claims that the laws violate the state’s Religious Freedom Act. She asserts that the laws compel “pregnant members of the Satanic Temple to endure delay, doubt, guilt, and shame when they exercise their religious belief to abort Human Tissue in accordance with the Satanic tenets.” Mary Doe has since obtained the abortion she sought.
Cole County Circuit Judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying that Doe’s claims “fail to allege facts, which if true, state a claim of relief under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” Lawyers from the Missouri Attorney General’s office had argued that the fact that Mary Doe disagrees with the content of the informational materials provided by the state does not create a cause of action.
“The Plaintiff’s disagreement with the content of those written materials…is neither an act nor a failure to act. Nothing in [the law] requires the Plaintiff to agree with the content of the state-mandated written materials anyway. The statute doesn’t even require that the Plaintiff read the materials.”
The Satanic Temple has also filed a suit in federal court alleging that the informed consent and waiting period laws violate the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit asserts that “the State of Missouri is using its powers to…promote some, but not all, religious beliefs that Human Tissue is, from conception, a separate and unique human being whose destruction is morally wrong.”
The Satanic Temple maintains that their “religious belief” is that “Human Tissue is part of a woman’s body that may be removed in good conscience without consideration of the current or future condition of the Human Tissue.” Doug Mesner, the founder of the Satanic Temple, says that their objective is “to bring a sudden halt to the current horrific trend of sanctimonious superstitious assaults on women’s freedom of choice.”
LifeSiteNews points out that Satanism has increasingly reared its ugly head in pro-abortion circles. During the intense rallies held in the Texas State Capitol last year over an abortion clinic regulation bill, abortion supporters began chanting “Hail, Satan!” during the demonstration.
Planned Parenthood chose not to mount a legal challenge to Missouri’s informed consent or 72-hour waiting period laws, concluding that their chances of success in federal court were slim. And not all supporters of abortion rights are happy with the Satanic Temple’s lawsuit.
Pro-abortion writer Robin Marty had this to say: “This stunt from the Satanic Temple does little to actually help…and instead only alienates those of faith who are already supportive of reproductive access as a civil right. There are far better ways to make a point about restrictive anti-abortion laws.”
The Satanic Temple says they are going to refile their lawsuit in state court with more specific claims of supposed intrusion on their “religious beliefs.” We will keep you posted on the progress of this legal battle in both state and federal court.
LifeNews.com Note: Joe Ortwerth writes for the Missouri Family Policy Council.