The Satanic Temple (TST) is challenging a Texas law that bans most abortions after a heartbeat can be detected in the unborn child.
The Satanists argue that the law restricts their right to free religious practice, referring to abortions as a “religious abortion ritual” and “a ceremony rooted in our deeply-held beliefs” on the TST website.
“This ritual may be performed by our members as a way to fortify self-worth, instill confidence, and provide spiritual comfort,” the TST website adds. “The performance of the Satanic abortion ritual is protected by religious liberty laws. It exempts Satanists from fulfilling any medically unnecessary and unscientific requirement, such as mandatory waiting periods or unwanted sonograms, that interferes with the practice of our ritual.”
On Thursday, TST announced that it was taking “legal action” in Texas to defend its members’ “religious rights.”
“Abortion laws in TX violate our religious rights and TST has taken legal action. If TX judges abide by the Constitution and legal precedent, then those who share our deeply held beliefs will be exempt from the state’s inappropriate efforts to restrict access to abortion services,” TST said in a statement.
A day later, TST sent out a message to its Texas followers encouraging them to seek out an illegal abortion “within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy.” TST promised to support anyone accused of violating Texas’ “heartbeat” law, known as SB8.
“TST stands ready to assist any member who shares our deeply-held religious convictions regarding the right to reproductive freedom. Accordingly, we encourage any member who resides in TX and wishes to undergo the Satanic Abortion Ritual within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy to contact The Satanic Temple so we may help them fight this law directly,” TST said. “SB8 does not allow for lawsuits or enforcement of penalties against a woman seeking an abortion. Instead, SB8 is cynically designed to avoid judicial review of the law and creates enforcement mechanisms against TST and its lawyers who dare challenge the law. We will not be cowed into silence by an unjust law or a tyrannical state government.”
Texas’ new abortion restrictions went into effect on September 1. The Texas law is unique in that it is the first of such “heartbeat” laws to avoid a stay by the Supreme Court. Last week, the court rejected a petition by abortion providers across the state to stay the law until its constitutionality could be litigated. As The Daily Wire reported:
The court’s conservative majority rejected the abortion providers’ request because of the law’s enforcement mechanism, which separates it from “heartbeat” laws passed in other states. The law deputizes private citizens, granting them standing to file lawsuits against violating abortion providers rather than authorizing state agents to police them. The court dismissed the request, which names every state court judge and clerk as defendants, based on procedural grounds.
“It is unclear whether the named defendants in this lawsuit can or will seek to enforce the Texas law against the applicants in a manner that might permit our intervention,” the ruling states. “The State has represented that neither it nor its executive employees possess the authority to enforce the Texas law either directly or indirectly. Nor is it clear whether, under existing precedent, this Court can issue an injunction against state judges asked to decide a lawsuit under Texas’s law.”