KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A group of Satanic worshippers are suing Missouri’s governor and attorney general in federal court, alleging that the state’s abortion restrictions violate their religious beliefs and should be scrapped.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in St. Louis on behalf of The Satanic Temple and a Missouri member identified only as “Mary Doe,” also alleges the law violates the establishment clause meant to bar governmental endorsement of religion.
Missouri law requires abortion providers to give pregnant women information about the physical characteristics of the fetus and the fetus’ ability to feel pain by at least 22 weeks, and it requires a 72-hour waiting period after providing the woman with an opportunity to view an ultrasound and hear the fetus’ heartbeat.
But according to the lawsuit, Missouri wrongly regulates abortion “to promote some, but not all, religious beliefs that human tissue is, from conception, a separate and unique human being whose destruction is morally wrong.”
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A spokesman for Gov. Jay Nixon deferred questions Wednesday about the lawsuit to Attorney General Chris Koster, whose office did not immediately return a message by The Associated Press.
The lawsuit, describing the temple as “an association of politically aware Satanists, secularists, and advocates for individual liberty,” says Mary Doe is a follower of the Satanic Tenets that deny that life begins at conception or that having an abortion is morally wrong. Those tenets insist among other things that a follower “makes decisions regarding her health based on the best scientific understanding of the world, even if the science does not comport with the religious or political beliefs of others,” and that “she alone decides whether to remove human tissue from her body.”
Missouri’s “informed consent” counseling and waiting period are not medically necessary for any believer in the Satanic Tenets to make an informed decision on an abortion, the lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit claims that the law causes Mary Doe, who previously terminated a pregnancy at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Missouri and may again decide to have an abortion, and “pregnant members of The Satanic Temple to endure delay, doubt, guilt and shame when they exercise their religious beliefs to abort human tissue in accordance with the Satanic Tenets.”
“All women who are contemplating getting an abortion in Missouri have the right, pursuant to the First Amendment, to exercise their freedom to believe when human life begins and act upon their belief without interference or influence by the state of Missouri,” the lawsuit submits.