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You might recall that our very favorite First Amendment activist-trolls, the Satanic Temple, sued back in May for an exemption to Missouri's 72-hour waiting period for an abortion, putting the "logic" of the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision to pro-choice use. Well! There have been developments! Back in June, Missouri filed a motion to dismiss the suit, and last week, the Satanic Temple filed its answer, arguing that as a Satanist, their client, "Mary Doe," believes her body is inviolable, and only she can make medical decisions about her medical care. Thus, the waiting period and mandatory anti-abortion reading material infringed her ability to exercise her faith. (Also, at this point, while the suit is going forward, the practical outcome is no longer a question, since "Mary Doe" went ahead and had the abortion, accepting the waiting period under protest.)

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Thanks to restrictive abortion laws, Missouri has only one clinic that provides abortions. (It's the same one and only Missouri abortion clinic the state attorney general just finished investigating, and no, it is not illegally selling baby parts for scraps.)

When a woman goes to the clinic to have an abortion, she then has to turn around and go home to and wait for 72 hours, to make sure she really really wants that abortion. The Satanic Temple's position is that since none of the state's restrictions are medically necessary, they constitute an effort to coerce religious beliefs upon the woman seeking an abortion:

Under the group’s tenets, Doe does not believe having an abortion terminates a separate, living human being, court documents say. So she believes her rights were violated when she was subject to the consent information and the 72-hour waiting period when she went to Planned Parenthood for an abortion.

Doe's attorney, W. James McNaughton, argued that Doe was entitled to an exemption from the waiting period and reading material under, Missouri's Restoring Freedom of Religion Act:

Doe “is asking for an abortion on demand,” MacNaughton said. In Missouri “the Legislature has deemed that human life begins at conception. They’ve deemed that an abortion is a termination of human life separate and independent from the mother. These are religious beliefs and she says, ‘No, thank you, I don’t believe in that stuff.’”

The state argued that the waiting period didn't actually prevent Doe from having an abortion, and that while she was forced to take the reading material, she wasn't forced to read it or to think about the moral implications of having an abortion, so her rights weren't infringed. In addition, the state claimed Doe had no religious purpose for seeking the abortion or insisting that it be provided right away. In essence, Missouri is arguing that it has imposed an arbitrary set of restrictions that inconvenience women for no reason at all, but if women ultimately can have the abortion, it doesn't really matter. So why have the law in the first place?

Lucien Greaves (aka Doug Mesner), the leader of the Satanic Temple, doesn't buy the state's claim that the mandatory anti-abortion reading material isn't coercive:

"The idea that the materials are of little consequence because you don't have to read them certainly wouldn't fly in schools if they started passing out Dianetics, by L. Ron Hubbard to the children," Greaves said.

As for the claim that Doe's desire for a timely abortion free of medically unnecessary impediments wasn't motivated by her religious beliefs, the Temple's answer argues:

"The physical act does not necessarily have to be imbued with inherent religious meaning, e.g., prayer. Rather, the physical act includes the entire scope of secular human activity. It runs the range of from paying Social Security taxes, to engaging in business, to purchasing health insurance, to going to school, to wearing beads and killing livestock. It also includes walking into an abortion clinic on any given day and getting an abortion on demand, a routine occurrence in most parts of the country. If the physical act -- or abstention therefrom -- is motivated by a religious belief, then it is the "exercise of religion."

Forcing her to wait 72 hours, the Satanists say, does violate Doe's sincerely held religious belief in her bodily integrity and freedom to make her own medical decisions. If Hobby Lobby can escape having to cover slut pills that it inaccurately believes induce abortion, then surely Doe should be able to make medical decisions that do involve scientific reality; there's no medical need to wait 72 hours and many practical reasons not to.

The court has not ruled on the state's motion to dismiss, but Greaves is optimistic and hopes it will set a precedent that those who believe in scientific medicine will be placed on an equal legal footing with people who believe birth control pills make baby Jesus cry. As the case moves forward, the Satanic Temple has put up a crowdfunding site to offset its legal fees.

[Broadly at Vice / RawStory / St Louis Today / Patheos]

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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