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Missouri legislators plan new abortion restrictions


Our favorite Freedom From Religion trolls, The Satanic Temple, have taken a big step beyond erecting Fallen Angel Yuletide displays or meeting school Bible giveaways with Satanic activity books for kids. They've gone and gotten the state of Missouri to partly back down on a restrictive abortion law that had required women wanting an abortion to submit to a medically unnecessary ultrasound. On Wednesday, the state's solicitor general, D. John Sauer, said during oral arguments before the state Supreme Court that the law's intent was only to give a woman the opportunity to receive an ultrasound (and hear the precious fetus's heartbeat), but that actually having the ultrasound is not mandatory.

The lawsuit was brought in 2015 by the Satanic Temple on behalf of an anonymous woman who said the state's abortion restrictions violated her religious beliefs. The plaintiff, "Mary Doe," argues that, as a Satanist, her body is inviolable and not subject to any state-imposed restrictions on medical treatment, and that Missouri's law, which requires a three-day waiting period and mandatory reading of anti-abortion pamphlets, violates her religious principles. She went ahead and got the abortion, going along with the waiting period "under protest."

The Satanic Temple said that according to its belief system, a fetus is not a person and only a woman has the right to determine her medical care, according to the group's tenet of bodily autonomy. The law's statement that human life begins at conception, they contend, is itself a religious belief, and therefore unconstitutional.

The state's contention that the law only requires women be given the "opportunity" to be convinced they're murdering a dear little baby might come as news to the sole remaining clinic performing abortions in Missouri, according to the Satanic Temple's attorney James MacNaughton, who told Missourinet that seemed remarkably vague:

How does the person at Planned Parenthood, who’s on the ground implementing this stuff, how do they know what the state’s rules are?

The St. Louis Riverfront Times asked Planned Parenthood whether its clinic had been operating under the assumption that ultrasounds were mandatory or optional, but did not hear back before going to press.

McNaughton argued that other major parts of Missouri's abortion laws also represent an imposition of religious beliefs on women seeking abortions:

“Mary Doe, in the exercise of her religious belief, asked for an abortion on demand, a medical procedure,” said MacNaughton. “‘Give me an appendectomy.’ There’s no need, there’s medical need in that instance, to make somebody wait three days.”

State Supreme Court Judge Laura Denver "Revenge of the" Stith questioned whether Doe's religious beliefs were truly infringed by the "informed consent" laws:

“Assuming they’re her religious beliefs and that she holds them, and that they’re in conflict with a statement made in the statute, she wasn’t forced to say she agreed with them,” said Stith. “She was given a brochure, but wasn’t required to read it. And she wasn’t, according to the state, required to pay for the sonogram.”

Solicitor General Sauer argued that, nah, all that "life begins at conception" stuff doesn't have to be religious in nature; citing other court decisions he said the statement could be a "political, philosophical and scientific belief" instead.

The state Supreme Court hasn't indicated when it will rule on the "Mary Doe" case, but here's a nice round of applause (with a pentagram of applause inside) for the Satanic Temple for at least getting the case as far as it has. A related federal case was initially dismissed in district court, but has been appealed to the Eighth Circuit.

Never ones to let a chance for brilliant grandstanding go by, the Satanic Temple made the most of Sauer's stance on ultrasounds yesterday, with the plainspoken lack of hyperbolic rhetoric we've come to appreciate from the group:

"The state’s interpretation of the law will allow women in Missouri seeking an abortion to do so with a level of dignity not currently available to them,” Satanic Temple spokeswoman Jex Blackmore said in a press release. “Women will no longer be forced to decide whether or not they want to listen to the fetal heartbeat while naked, with their feet in stirrups, and a transvaginal ultrasound wand inside of them.”

It might not be especially lawyerly, but it makes the point pretty well. Also, congratulations to media; the three outlets we used for this story, including a Denver teevee station, were all careful to note that the Satanic Temple is a "non-theistic religious organization" whose members "don’t believe in literal Satan but see the biblical Satan as a metaphor for rebellion against tyranny." That's an impressive degree of not-freaking-out. Now if the Gateway Pundit would just get a clue (Haha, we are funny).

And we are happy to end the day on some actual Nice Times for a dang change! This is now your OPEN THREAD

Yr Wonkette is supported by reader donations. Please click here to help us Hail Metaphorical Satan. Also, Becca says you're a wee bit under this month, so help some sisters out.

[9News / Riverfront Times / Missourinet]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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