In light of the Hobby Lobby ruling, religious groups everywhere are jumping at the chance to deny women fundamental health care on the basis of the owners’ religious beliefs.
The Satanic Temple is using the same principle to do just the opposite.
In case you’re not familiar with them, The Satanic Temple is an organization whose mission is to “encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will.” In their next pro-human move, the group has just announced that it will assert a religious exemption from state-mandated “informed consent” abortion laws, and they say the Supreme Court’s decision strengthens their case.
Informed consent laws, currently in place in at least three states, require abortion providers to give their patients “official information” about the abortion process before they can perform the procedure. Unfortunately, these materials are not only laden with false and misleading information, but they’re usually nothing more than biased, accusatory propaganda meant to shame and scare a person out of getting an abortion. According to The Satanic Temple, some of these required materials have claimed a link between abortion and breast cancer and a fictional depressive “post-abortion syndrome.”
This move is the first step in a broader initiative The Satanic Temple will embark on to advocate for women’s and reproductive health. However, according to a press release, the group says that vocally opposing informed consent materials is nothing new.
While The Satanic Temple [is] not the first organization to criticize state-mandated abortion materials as false and/or biased, they are the first to offer an exemption from such materials on religious grounds. Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves points out that the controversial Hobby Lobby ruling bolsters their cause: “While we feel we have a strong case for an exemption regardless of the Hobby Lobby ruling, the Supreme Court has decided that religious beliefs are so sacrosanct that they can even trump scientific fact. This was made clear when they allowed Hobby Lobby to claim certain contraceptives were abortifacients, when in fact they are not. Because of the respect the Court has given to religious beliefs, and the fact that our beliefs are based on best available knowledge, we expect that our belief in the illegitimacy of state-mandated ‘informational’ material is enough to exempt us, and those who hold our beliefs, from having to receive them.”
To put this plan into action, the group has created a letter addressed to healthcare providers that explains its religious opposition to the legally mandated distribution of anti-choice materials. Those beliefs, as outlined in the letter:
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.
- I make any decision regarding my 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.
- 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.
- I, and I alone, decide whether my inviolable body remains pregnant and I may, in good conscience, disregard the current or future condition of any fetal or embryonic tissue I carry in making that decision.
It explains further that a refusal to abide by this request constitutes a violation of an individual’s First Amendment rights:
As you know, your medical treatment of me requires my informed consent. My informed consent is based solely on scientifically true and accurate information that is relevant to my decisions regarding my health and pregnancy in accordance with my sincerely held religious beliefs.
I regard any information required by state statute to be communicated or offered to me as a precondition for an abortion (separate and apart from any other medical procedure) is based on politics and not science (“Political Information”). I regard Political Information as a state sanctioned attempt to discourage abortion by compelling my consideration of the current and future condition of my fetal or embryonic tissue separate and apart from my body. I do not regard Political Information to be scientifically true or accurate or even relevant to my medical decisions. The communication of Political Information to me imposes an unwanted and substantial burden on my religious beliefs.
A person considering an abortion has only to bring the letter to her provider, and voila. From The Satanic Temple’s statement:
All women who share our deeply held belief that all their personal choices should be made with access to the best available information, undiluted by biased or false information, are free to seek protection with this exemption whether they are members of The Satanic Temple or not. We merely contend that we are in a unique position to argue the merits of this belief, as it is fundamental to our religious philosophy.
Obviously, we can’t assume that sidestepping such restrictive, harmful laws will be so easy. However, in the wake of sweeping changes like the one we’re experiencing post-Hobby Lobby, it’s crucial to assert and reassert the different implications of religious exemptions. If “freedom of religion” can subject a person to dehumanizing standards of healthcare, freedom from religion should be able to save them from it.