The Satanic Temple in Missouri has once again lost a court battle to overturn a state law requiring abortion clinics to provide anti-abortion pamphlets to their patients.
Though Missouri has long been at the forefront of rolling back abortion, knocking the institution down to just one clinic in recent years, the practice saw a resurgence in the state in 2017, when a federal judge enjoined a law mandating that abortion providers get admitting privileges to nearby hospitals and retrofit their facilities to meet current surgical center standards. Multiple clinics opened up in the state as a result, giving the Satanic Temple a window of opportunity to attack two other anti-abortion provisions in the state: One requiring women to read anti-abortion pamphlets and another requiring them to wait 72 hours between their initial consultations and a second appointment, before the abortion can commence.
According to LifeNews, The Satanic Temple argued that the two laws violate their religious beliefs, because their religion “prizes rational, independent thought” which would be supplanted if they were forced to read anti-abortion pamphlets and “consider a religious proposition with which they do not agree” during the 72-hour waiting period.
“The case has been thrown out in court multiple times, but each time, Doe appealed to a higher court,” reports LifeNews.
In a statement in September 2017, Satanic Temple spokesperson Jex Blackmore described the story of how one of their adherents, “Mary Doe,” entered a Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015 and had her religious beliefs violated by having to read the pamphlets.
“One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone,” the Temple states. “Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.”
The Temple also cited Missouri’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which requires the state to have a compelling interest to violate someone’s religious beliefs before doing so, as precedent.
“However, the State is permitted to burden Mary’s free exercise of religion if they have a compelling interest to do so and are using the least restrictive means possible,” they continued. “Even if the State claims they have a compelling interest in preserving ‘unborn life,’ the burdens are certainly not the least restrictive means possible. In fact, studies show that mandated waiting periods and informed consent materials have very little impact on birth and abortion rates.”
On Wednesday, Judge Laura Denvir Stith of the Supreme Court of Missouri and four fellow judges argued that Mary Doe’s rights were not in violation because she could easily refuse to accept the booklet offered to her.
“(T)he informed consent law neither requires a pregnant woman to read the booklet in question nor requires her to have or pay for an ultrasound,” Stith wrote in the Court’s ruling. “And, while Ms. Doe mentions the 72-hour waiting period, she does not allege how that waiting period conflicts with her religion nor that it was an undue burden, nor did she seek to enjoin its enforcement prior to the expiration of that waiting period.”
According to St. Louis Public Radio, Chief Justice Zell M. Fischer wrote in his concurring opinion that the U.S. Supreme Court “has made it clear that state speech is not religious speech solely because it ‘happens to coincide’ with a religious tenet.”
State Attorney General Eric Schmitt said in a statement that the informed consent law “is a common sense measure designed to protect women from undue pressure and coercion during the sensitive decision of whether or not to have an abortion, and we applaud the Missouri Supreme Court’s decision in this case.”