Chalk one up for the champions of religious freedom.
Women just scored a major legislative victory, with an assist of sorts from the Prince of Darkness. On Wednesday, Missouri Solicitor General D. John Sauer determined that women are not required to receive an ultrasound in order to have an abortion in the state. The ruling follows the Satanic Temple’s decision to sue the state on the grounds that the restriction represented a violation of a woman’s personal religious beliefs.
Speaking in court regarding Missouri Statute 188.027 item number four, Sauer declared, “it’s the position of the State that an ultrasound does not have to be conducted unless a person says they want the opportunity to hear the fetal heartbeat.”
In a press release recorded and played before the court, the Satanic Temple added, “Mr. Sauer affirms that the State’s interpretation of statute (MO Rev Stat § 188.027) is that women only be offered the ‘opportunity,’ to have an ultrasound and listen to the fetal heartbeat, and if a woman declines hearing the audio, the ultrasound need not be performed and the requirement has been satisfied.”
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of a member of the Satanic Temple identified as “Mary Doe,” “challenged the informed consent law under both the state’s religious freedom restoration act (section 1.302, RSMo) and the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the federal constitution,” according to the case summary.
Under the informed consent law, Mary Doe was required to listen to her fetus’ heartbeat during a 72-hour waiting period prior to her abortion procedure. She also was given a booklet containing information about “the probable anatomical and physiological characteristics of the unborn child at two-week gestational increments from conception to full term.” Printed in the booklet was a statement that read, “The life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.”
As the case summary reveals, Doe presented a letter to the doctors at the clinic informing them that, “she adheres to principles of the Satanic temple and has sincerely held religious beliefs different from the information in the informed consent booklet.” The letter “absolved the doctors of their responsibility to deliver the booklet to her or to wait 72 hours before performing her abortion, advising them she voluntarily, freely and without coercion was choosing to have the abortion that day.”
Her letter was ignored.
The Satanic Temple describes itself as a “non-theistic religious organization dedicated to Satanic practice and the promotion of Satanic rights.” Its followers are not Satanists, worshipping at the altar of Beelzebub, but those who “see the biblical Satan as a metaphor for rebellion against tyranny,” according to 9news.com. One of the seven tenets of the Satanic Temple is that, “One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.”
Satanic Temple spokesperson Jex Blackmore said in a statement, “Missouri’s state-mandated informed consent booklets explicitly say that life begins at conception, which is a non-medical religious viewpoint that many people disagree with. Forcing women to read this information and then wait 72 hours to consider the State’s opinion is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause.”
The case is currently being heard by the Supreme Court of Missouri. A separate federal case is concurrently wending its way through the St. Louis Appeals circuit.
by Emily C. Bell; AlterNet