There are two laws in Missouri that really go against each other. The first is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The second is Missouri’s 72 hour waiting period and “informed consent” law about abortion. This problem is coming to a head.
A woman who belongs to the Satanic Temple wants an abortion. She went to Planned Parenthood and filed an exemption form stating that the 72 hour waiting period places an undue burden on her religious beliefs. Planned Parenthood rejected the exemption form based on Missouri’s 72 hour waiting period and “informed consent” law. The woman, called Mary Doe in court documents, and the Satanists have filed suit over the denial.
In Missouri, and several other states, the waiting period has no medical or scientific basis. It is merely a forced waiting period so the woman can digest the “informed consent” material they are forced to endure. This material has no medical or scientific background or need either. Most of the material is intended to make a woman feel guilty about her choice, thus forcing her to change her mind.
The Satanic Temple says that is a violation of the RFRA. Spokesman Lucien Greaves says that “in our tenets, we hold that one should make decisions based on the best scientific evidence available and that a woman’s body – anyone’s body – are subject to ones own will.” He claims that the state mandated material is not scientifically based, is nothing more than state-propaganda designed to sway an individual’s decision, and therefore is against their religion.
That puts the 72 hour waiting period and “informed consent” law in conflict with the RFRA. The really weird part of this story is that the Hobby Lobby case at the Supreme Court opened the door for this conflict to happen. In the Hobby Lobby case, Hobby Lobby argued that certain contraceptives were abortifacients. They are not abortifacients, yet Hobby Lobby argued that they believe they were and therefore should not be forced to provide them in their health coverage.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby. In essence, the court ruled that even if the science does not support your claim, as long as you hold “deeply religious beliefs” about your argument, you are right. Which brings us to the “informed consent” law in Missouri.
The Satanic Temple is saying that they believe that the material being forced upon women is not scientifically based and inaccurate. Under the Hobby Lobby ruling, they only need argue they have a “deeply held religious belief” that the material is bogus and therefore, they are correct.
There have been other challenges to the waiting period laws that have failed. However, this is the first one using the RFRA as a reason the waiting period laws are invalid. I know that not many people are going to support the Satanic Temple. However, it is a religion, whether or not you agree with them, and therefore should be protected under the RFRA as well.
The other sad part of the story is that the Satanic Temple cannot get a pro-bono lawyer to take up their case. So, they are forced to look for donations to continue this case. I am extremely surprised that the ACLU doesn’t take up the case. So, I ask the ACLU to please explain why you aren’t taking up this case.
The ruling in this case has a lot of ramifications. None of them, in my opinion, are positive for the Conservative Christian right who are behind these anti-abortion laws. If the courts rule in favor of the Satanic Temple, what does that mean for everyone else? Would these waiting period laws be stricken? Probably not. More likely, the state legislature would change the waiting period laws to remove any religious exemptions from them.
Taking that step would indicate that they really don’t believe in the RFRA they so dramatically scream about when it suits their desires. It would also prove that they are only interested in forcing their beliefs on everyone else, religious freedom be damned.
If the court rules against the Satanic Temple, there would be a legitimate argument that the court is “defining what is religion and what isn’t.” That would also be bad for everyone. If the court rules that the Satanic Temple isn’t a real religion, which religion will be next?
Yes, this case is one that is worth watching. The arguments put forth by the state to defend their waiting period law will allow the world to see just how insincere they are about religious freedom. It will open up the can of worms that prove their arguments about religious liberty is one-sided and hypocritical.
To be frank, I hope this turns out to be a real dilemma for the Christian right. It will only accelerate the movement away from religion recent polls are indicating is happening. Then, maybe, we can have legitimate discussions about our issues and not have religious bellicose drowning out potential solutions.