Court Dismisses Satanist’s Challenge to Abortion Law

abortion fetus
AP/Esteban Felix

A federal appeals court dismissed a lawsuit against a Missouri abortion law filed by a member of the Satanic Temple.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, in a 3-0 decision, dismissed the lawsuit filed by “Judy Doe,” who claimed a state law requiring abortion clinics to present women with a booklet that states life begins at conception violated her religious beliefs.

As part of Missouri’s informed consent practices, the law requires that women planning to have an abortion be presented with a booklet that states, “The life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.”

The booklet also contains images of babies in the uterus and how they develop throughout pregnancy. While women must receive the booklet, they are not required to read it.

Nevertheless, Doe claimed that, as a satanist, the law requiring that booklet be presented to her violated both her religious beliefs and the Establishment clause of the First Amendment.

The court ruled, however, the Missouri law is constitutional.

In the opinion, Judge David Stras, a Trump appointee, observed, “As a member of ‘The Satanic Temple,’ she believes that the ‘Human Tissue’ that she was carrying was ‘part of her body.’”

“As she stated in her complaint, her ‘body is inviolable’ and ‘[s]he alone’ gets to decide what to do with it, regardless of ‘the current or future condition of the Human Tissue’ within,” Stras continued.

The judge wrote that Doe’s claim is problematic because “a state does not establish religion by passing a law that just happens to coincide or harmonize with the tenets of some or all religions.”

Doe also argued, Stras noted, that Missouri law requiring that she has had an opportunity to view an ultrasound and received the informed consent booklet, violates her “Satanist beliefs” that include “without limitation any law that serves no medical purpose or purports to protect the interests of her Human Tissue.”

However, the court disagreed, pointing out that states do have a role in determining when life begins.

The judge wrote that, in 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey plurality opinion “recognized that 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.’”

Abortion industry giant Planned Parenthood has been working with the Satanic Temple to fight state abortion restrictions.

In April 2019, the Satanic Temple also announced the IRS had recognized it as a “church” with tax-exempt status.

Despite its designation as a “church,” TST is non-religious and states on its FAQ page that it does not worship Satan.

“[N]or do we believe in the existence of Satan or the supernatural,” the group explains. “The Satanic Temple believes that religion can, and should, be divorced from superstition. As such, we do not promote a belief in a personal Satan. To embrace the name Satan is to embrace rational inquiry removed from supernaturalism and archaic tradition-based superstitions.”


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