Satanist says Missouri abortion laws violate her religious beliefs
‘Jane Doe’ believes that life does not begin at conception – and that Missouri’s Christianity-based laws contravene that
A woman who says Missouri abortion law violates her religious beliefs brought her case before the Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The woman, identified in court documents as Mary Doe, is an adherent of the Satanic Temple. She names Governor Eric Greitens as a defendant.
Doe’s New Jersey-based lawyer, James Mac Naughton, argued before the Missouri Supreme Court that the state’s informed consent law violates Doe’s religious belief that life does not begin at conception.
“Her journey led her to believe the tissue she was carrying was simply that: tissue,” Mac Naughton said to the judges. “But in the steps of Mary Doe’s journey, the state of Missouri says, ‘Wait a minute, little lady, you’re about to commit murder.’
“ … They want to change her mind and heart, change the way she sees herself in the cosmos.”
The case is the first of its kind to be heard by either the Missouri Supreme Court or the US Supreme Court.
The features of the law at issue are Missouri’s mandate that women wait 72 hours before having an abortion, sign a document confirming they have read a brochure that states life begins at conception, and have an opportunity to view an ultrasound and listen to a fetal heartbeat.
Doe’s real identity has not been made public. According to court documents, she is a resident of Greene County.
John Sauer, the state’s lawyer, contested that Missouri’s sanctioning of the idea that life begins at conception in its abortion materials is not a religious belief but a philosophical one, and thus is not forcing doctrine on Doe.
Sauer also argued that Doe’s religious beliefs are not being altered by the state’s informed consent laws, nor is the state forcing Doe to view abortion and when life begins as the state does.
“She’s not a bad believer under her religion (by conforming to the state’s informed consent laws),” he said. “Her argument is the state is a bad believer.”
Jex Blackmore, a spokeswoman for the Satanic Temple, disagreed with Sauer, saying the state is effectively pushing a religious belief on citizens with its brochure stating life begins at conception and implying any abortion is therefore murder.
“They do everything to impose guilt and shame on them,” she said of women seeking abortion, “and that’s seen through a purely ideological viewpoint promoted by the state. The state forces women to wait 72 hours to consider the State’s position that life begins at conception.”
Blackmore added that lawmakers use “faith-based language” when speaking about abortion as evidence that anti-abortion legislation in the state is, in fact, guided by religious belief.
She pointed to a Missouri representative who last year beheaded a chicken in a strange anti-abortion message.
“God gave man dominion over life,” Republican Representative Mike Moon said before discussing his goal of ending abortion in the state. Moon could not be immediately reached on Tuesday.
Blackmore said the mere opportunity given to women seeking abortions to hear a fetal heartbeat and view an ultrasound is a violation of the Satanic Temple’s beliefs, as she said it serves to convince women that their fetus is a separate and viable human, contrary to the Satanists’ beliefs.
“It’s an indoctrination programme,” she said.
Attorney General Josh Hawley, who is also named as a defendant in the case, pledged in a statement made last year that he would vigorously defend “Missouri’s sensible waiting period law from this challenge by the Satanic Temple in the Missouri Supreme Court.”
Doe’s lawsuit seeks statutory changes to Missouri abortion law.
A 2015 New York Times profile of the Satanic Temple – formed by two people with a “shared distaste for organised religion” – pointed out how the group has used social media, its “eye-catching name” and imagery such as Baphomet, the “sabbatic goat,” to attract widespread media attention to its lawsuits.
The group’s mission is “to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will.”