The Satanic Temple, a faith community that ascribes to seven central tenets that track closely with humanism, is seeking a religious exemption from Missouri’s 72-hour abortion waiting period on the grounds that the law violates their sincerely held beliefs about bodily autonomy.
The St. Louis chapter of the Satanic Temple says they were recently contacted by a Satanist woman, whom they identify only as “Mary,” who is struggling to navigate Missouri’s harsh abortion laws as she attempts to end a pregnancy. She lives hundreds of miles away from the state’s only abortion clinic, and she doesn’t have the means to make the trip twice in order to comply with the state’s mandatory counseling and 72-hour waiting requirements. So her religious leaders are stepping in on her behalf.
Satanic Temple leaders set up a crowdfunding site to raise money to help Mary cover the expenses associated with her abortion procedure. And they’re also arguing that, based on their community’s religious tenets — which stipulate that “one’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone” and “we should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs” — Mary should be able to get a faith-based exemption to the state’s 72-hour waiting period.
According to the crowdfunding page set up on her behalf, Mary now plans to present her doctor with a letter that reads, “I regard a waiting period as a state sanctioned attempt to discourage abortion by instilling an unnecessary burden as part of the process to obtain this legal medical procedure. The waiting period interferes with the inviolability of my body and thereby imposes an unwanted and substantial burden on my sincerely held religious beliefs.”
The Satanic Temple — sometimes described as “the nicest Satanic cult in the world” — is a unique blend of activism, satire, and what appear to be sincere humanist beliefs. Over the past several years, its adherents have used several creative campaigns to test the limits of religious freedom, like pointing out that laws allowing Christian prayer in school will also ensure that kids can pray to Satan.
Mary’s case fits into Satanists’ larger effort to use the framework set forth by the recent Hobby Lobby case to argue that they should be exempt from state-level abortion restrictions. Last summer, on the heels of a Supreme Court decision that awarded Hobby Lobby’s evangelical owners the right to drop insurance coverage for birth control methods that violate their religious beliefs, the leaders of the Satanic Temple launched a “Religious Reproductive Liberty” campaign.
As part of that campaign, the Satanic Temple makes the religious case against abortion restrictions that are based on junk science and medical misinformation — and fights for the right to use faith-based arguments to strengthen, rather than weaken, access to reproductive health care.
“While religio-conservative views seek to undermine abortion rights, they have also steadily worked to define ‘religious liberty’ to be understood in terms of reserving the the right to deny contraceptives and oppose rational family planning practices. In fact, religious liberty works the other way, too,” Lucien Greaves, the head of The Satanic Temple, said in a statement provided to the Friendly Atheist blog.
Greaves also said his group is preparing to “pursue legal action” if the doctors at Missouri’s only abortion clinic aren’t able to honor Mary’s religious waiver seeking to bypass the 72-hour waiting period.
While some Americans likely don’t take the Satanic Temple’s stated religious beliefs seriously, other faith groups take a similar stance on reproductive rights. Across the country, some faith leaders and clergy members have been standing up for women’s access to legal abortion services, arguing that their desire to protect women’s safety and bodily autonomy stems from their Christian beliefs. And back in the 1960s, before Roe v. Wade, Christian and Jewish leaders were instrumental in advocating for the legalization of abortion to prevent women from dying.