ST. LOUIS, Mo. — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit from the atheist group known as the Satanic Temple that sought a religious exemption from a state law requiring mothers to wait 72 hours for an abortion following their initial visit to an abortion facility.
As previously reported, the New York-based Satanic Temple announced in 2014 that it was using the Supreme Court decision in favor of the popular craft chain Hobby Lobby to ‘bolster’ an initiative to seek an exemption from pro-life laws that its members claim to violate their religious beliefs.
The U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in June of that year that the federal government cannot force closely-held companies to obey regulations which violate the owners’ religious beliefs. Hobby Lobby has been providing birth control coverage to employees for years, but took issue with four contraceptives that it considered to be abortifacients.
The organization therefore decided that it too would seek an exemption from laws that conflict with its beliefs, such as obtaining information or counseling about abortion before ending the unborn child’s life. It states that “[t]he Satanic Temple believes that the body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.”
The Satanic Temple then crafted a letter for abortion-minded women to present at abortion facilities in search of exemptions and waivers from applicable abortion laws.
“As an adherent to the principles of the Satanic Temple, my sincerely held religious beliefs are: My body is inviolable and subject to my will alone. … My inviolable body includes any fetal or embryonic tissue I carry so long as that tissue is unable to survive outside my body as an independent human being,” it reads in part.
According to reports, one Missouri woman identified only under the pseudonym “Mary” went to a Planned Parenthood facility in St. Louis to obtain an abortion. As employees advised that she must wait 72 hours to undergo the procedure and must obtain an ultrasound, she then presented them with the letter from the Satanic Temple.
“I personally would have liked to have the procedure done as soon as possible,” “Mary,” who at the time was 12 weeks pregnant, told reporters. “But with all the difficulties, how hard it is do this, it’s been put off for several weeks. If you’re right on the edge of the state you’ve got to go 500 miles just to get to St. Louis, and you have to make arrangements.”
Shortly afterward, she and the Satanic Temple then decided to file suit against the state of Missouri to seek an exemption. The organization argued the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which was also cited in the Hobby Lobby decision.
“The decision is substantially motivated and informed by Mary Doe’s belief in the Tenets,” complaint asserted. “Thus its implementation, i.e., getting an abortion, is the ‘exercise of religion’ protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).”
This week, U.S. District Judge Henry Edward Autrey dismissed the case as “Mary” is no longer pregnant and therefore now lacks standing in the case. It is unclear as to whether or not she obtained an abortion or gave birth.
“Plaintiff Doe is not now pregnant, there is no guarantee that she will become pregnant in the future, and that if she does, she will seek an abortion, thus, Plaintiffs’ injuries are not sufficiently concrete for the court to order the requested relief,” Autrey wrote.
“Because Plaintiffs have failed [to] allege a threatened injury that is certainly impending and that any future injury is particular and concrete, Plaintiffs have failed to sufficiently establish standing to challenge the Missouri statutes,” he said.
The Satanic Temple says that it plans to appeal as it is disappointed with the dismissal since “you’re not going to find a federal case that is wrapped up in nine months.”