Top Missouri officials are asking that a lawsuit brought by the Satanic Temple challenging the state's mandated 72-hour waiting period for an abortion be thrown out -- but the Satanists say that's proof they have a strong case.
The motion to dismiss was filed Tuesday by Gov. Jay Nixon and state Attorney General Chris Koster, claiming the suit doesn't show sufficient proof the plaintiffs were harmed, the Kansas City Star reports. They also claim they are legally protected from being named in such suits because they are elected officials.
The lawsuit is on behalf of a Satanic Temple member and Missouri resident using the pseudonym "Mary."
It states that Mary, who is pregnant, went in May to Planned Parenthood with the intention of getting an abortion. She was told she had to wait 72 hours, at which point she presented a waiver from the Satanic Temple saying the waiting period violated her religious beliefs. She was still denied, prompting the lawsuit, according to Patheos.
"While the State's Motion to Dismiss may well just be a standard opening maneuver, the laughable nature of their argument can't help but signify a certain degree of desperation," said Lucien Greaves, Satanic Temple co-founder, in an email to the Raw Story. "I'm pleased to see that our case is strong enough that this Motion to Dismiss was the best Missouri could do. I think this bodes very well for our prospects of a momentous victory in defense of reproductive rights."
The state currently mandates abortion providers give pregnant patients anti-abortion propaganda material on the physical characteristics of fetuses and their ability to feel pain at 22 weeks of gestation. Women must then wait 72 hours, after being given the option to see an ultrasound and hear a fetal heart beat before receiving an abortion.
This is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause which prevents the government from favoring one religion over another, or lack thereof, according to the Satanic Temple's lawsuit.
"Women whose decision to terminate a pregnancy is informed by her deeply-held belief in Satanic principles of bodily autonomy and scientific deference should not be made to endure State-sanctioned proselytization of a conflicting religious perspective," Greaves wrote.
"The State's Informed Consent propaganda, mandatory for dissemination to all women seeking to terminate a pregnancy 72 hours before an abortion, explicitly put forward items of religion opinion, such as the notion that life begins at conception," Greaves continued. "We argue that the Informed Consent materials, and the 72-hour mandatory waiting period that is imposed with them, is a violation of our religious liberty."
An attempt by the state to coerce Mary's decision based on the idea that the "tissue" in her womb is "the life of a separate, unique, living human being" restricts her free practice of her religion and Missouri's Religious Freedom Restoration Act because it violates the tenets of the Satanic Temple. Tenets include items like "One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone," and "Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs," according to their website.
According to the Star, the state countered that its current policy does not violate the First Amendment because while abortion providers by law must provide "informed consent" material to patients 72 hours before an abortion can be performed, "it does not compel these patents to accept, read or agree with" the information.
Greaves called this argument "absurd."
"If the Court were to accept this argument, imagine the untenable and disastrous precedent it would set," he wrote. "It would be analogous to a public school forcing Bibles upon children, but arguing their behavior isn't problematic so long as they don't explicitly require the Bibles actually be read."
Greaves apparently does not believe the case will be dismissed and said Thursday the Temple is in the process of assembling expert witnesses and fundraising for the legal effort. They have already raised more than $33,000.