ST. LOUIS (ChurchMilitant.com) - Federal court is siding with Missouri in its clash with satanists over when life begins and whether there should be a waiting period between an abortion consultation and the abortion itself.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit unanimously ruled on Tuesday that Missouri law does not violate the religious freedom of a Satanic Temple member who challenged the state's pro-life regulations.
Missouri mandates an initial consultation for a woman seeking an abortion that gives "medically accurate" information relevant to her decision. This information is contained in a state-authored, informed-consent booklet.
One relevant statement from the booklet that was quoted in the ruling reads: "The life of each human being begins at conception ... abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being."
Following the consultation, Missouri further requires a three-day waiting period before the abortion can be performed.
While the above ruling involved a particular Satanic Temple member called Judy Doe, the organization began its push for abortion in 2015 using another of its members named Mary Doe. In that year, Mary Doe challenged Missouri's regulations.
The Satanic Temple, co-founded in 2012 by "Lucien Greaves" (real name: Doug Mesner) was already growing in power. It had used crowdsourcing in 2015 to commission an eight-foot statue of "Baphomet," which it wanted placed next to the stone Ten Commandments at Oklahoma's state capitol. The state declined the offer but was forced to remove the Ten Commandments as well.
Emboldened by this victory, the Satanic Temple decided to take on a new cause, abortion. But the organization needed someone to claim their rights had been violated. They needed their version of Jane Roe and thus chose Mary Doe.
Mary Doe was a single mother from Missouri with one child who connected with Satanic Temple. The organization helped raise money for Doe's abortion and the battle was underway. Ultimately, Doe's case was dismissed in 2016 and then lost in its appeal in 2018.
Samuel Lee, a St. Louis pro-life lobbyist, told Church Militant, "The primary reason for the Mary Doe dismissal was that her suit was filed after she'd had an abortion."
Satanic Temple then found another woman — Judy Doe, who was still pregnant — and filed a new lawsuit in 2018 with the same claim, namely, that her rights had been violated. In her multifaceted complaint, Judy Doe alleged that Missouri's informed-consent law violates the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment. She also claimed Missouri's informed-consent law imposed an undue burden on her right to an abortion. She further argued the law violated her religious freedom as a Satanic Temple member.
Judy Doe and Satanic Temple assert they have sincerely held religious beliefs that "One's body is inviolable, subject to one's own will alone." Her lawsuit claims that states may never adopt a "theory of when life begins."
Lee, however, notes the phrase "life begins at birth" could be construed as a religious statement as well.
It was these claims by Doe that the court dismissed in its ruling on Tuesday writing, "states still have a role to play on this issue." The court went on to argue that Roe v. Wade "implies no limitation on the authority of a state to make a value judgment favoring childbirth over abortion."
The court wrote that the case demonstrates why Missouri wasn't wrong to promote viewpoints on life that Doe argued align with the Catholic religion.
"Any theory of when life begins necessarily aligns with some religious beliefs and not others," stated the court. "So under Doe's theory, Missouri's only option would be to avoid legislating in this area altogether."
The court further noted that mothers are not forced to read the booklet much less sign it or say they agree with the information claimed in the booklet.
Instead, the court ruled "informed-consent laws like this one serve the legitimate purpose of reducing the risk that a woman may elect an abortion, only to discover later, with devastating psychological consequences, that her decision was not fully informed."