Satanist group challenges Missouri law on abortions

Reuters News
|
Posted: Jan 24, 2018 9:08 PM

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) - A group of Satanists is challenging a Missouri law that requires women seeking an abortion to receive a booklet that says life begins at conception, arguing before the state Supreme Court that the measure violated a member's religious beliefs.

An organization called the Satanic Temple filed the lawsuit on behalf of a woman identified as Mary Doe, who went to a clinic in St. Louis for an abortion in 2015. She received the procedure, after she had an ultrasound and completed a required 72-hour waiting period, according to court records.

Missouri is one of six U.S. states that require that women seeking abortions be told that personhood begins at conception, and one of 27 states that make women wait a certain amount of time before the procedure, according to the website for the Guttmacher Institute.

The hearing marked the first time a Satanist group had presented arguments over an abortion law in any state Supreme Court in the United States, Jex Blackmore, a Satanic Temple spokesman, said in an email.

The woman at the center of the lawsuit is a member of the religious organization and contends her beliefs, including her belief that a fetus is not an independent being, were violated by the state law.

At the abortion clinic, the woman was given a booklet that said, as required by state law, that human life begins at conception, according to court papers.

"They want to change her mind, they want to change her heart, they want to change the way she sees herself in the cosmos," the Satanic Temple's attorney, James McNaughton, said at the Missouri Supreme Court hearing.

An attorney for the state, D. John Sauer, rejected the group's arguments, saying the law's requirements did not violate anyone's religious beliefs.

It was not immediately clear when the Missouri Supreme Court might rule on the case.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Cooney)