Missouri Woman, a Satanist, Will Claim “Religious Freedom” to Get Out of 72-Hour Abortion Waiting Period

“Mary” is a Missouri native who wants an abortion… but there are a couple of big obstacles in that state:

… Planned Parenthood of St. Louis is currently the only abortion provider in the state. Not only does Mary live hundreds of miles away, but there is also a dehumanizing 72 hour waiting period between her initial appointment and the procedure itself. This means that Mary must either find lodging or make the trip twice. She doesn’t have the means to do this.

That’s from a GoFundMe page to help cover her costs. But beyond that, The Satanic Temple, to which Mary belongs, is trying to work around the 72-hour waiting period that women are required to go through by invoking the “religious freedom” argument.

Damien Ba’al, the head of the Satanic Temple’s St. Louis chapter, says:

… according to our tenets, one’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone. So we are… protecting her sincerely held religious beliefs.

To that end, Mary plans to deliver a message to her doctor which includes this passage:

As you know, state law requires a waiting period after I first receive counseling before I can undergo an abortion. I regard a waiting period as a state sanctioned attempt to discourage abortion by instilling an unnecessary burden as part of the process to obtain this legal medical procedure. The waiting period interferes with the inviolability of my body and thereby imposes an unwanted and substantial burden on my sincerely held religious beliefs.

This letter constitutes my acknowledgment that you have notified me of the state mandated waiting period, but demands that you do not abide by this obligation because the waiting period offends my sincerely held religious beliefs, which take precedent.

I asked Lucien Greaves, the head of The Satanic Temple, why they were taking this step and he told me this:

Since 1973’s Roe v. Wade ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States safeguarding the legality of abortion, the conservative religious right has grown violently hysterical in defining anti-abortion initiatives in terms of supreme moral significance. Lawmakers (primarily Republican) have steadily introduced “weasel bills” transparently designed to make the process of receiving an abortion more difficult, and overall as emotionally and logistically harrowing as they possibly can. Those who define the issue in terms of personal choice often find their views marginalized as indicative of values existing outside of the benefits of religious protection. While religio-conservative views seek to undermine abortion rights, they have also steadily worked to define “religious liberty” to be understood in terms of reserving the the right to deny contraceptives and oppose rational family planning practices. In fact, religious liberty works the other way, too.

As Satanists we believe in individual autonomy, personal choice, and the inviolability of one’s own body. Further, we believe one should be free to make one’s own decisions, uncoerced, based on the best available scientific evidence, whether or not the science comports with the religious and/or political views of others.

This past Summer, The Satanic Temple made an exemption available, for women who share our values, against “informed consent” materials — State-mandated informational material, imposed upon women in some states, that is often scientifically dubious (at best), and openly meant to dissuade from abortions, or create guilt about the procedure.

Recently, a member of The Satanic Temple, “Mary”, reached out to another TST member informing him that she will be seeking an abortion in her home state of Missouri, and that she intended to use our exemption form. She was put in contact with our St. Louis chapter, where the membership began to work diligently to provide Mary with support and safe passage. It was brought to our attention that an obligatory waiting period (72 hours) is burdened upon women seeking abortions in Missouri, a requirement we feel our deeply-held values exempt Mary from as well. We believe the the State Government should bear the burden of establishing a case for an imminent need to deny timely service, as such a requirement violates our sense of religious identity relating to personal choice and individual sovereignty.

The waiting period is another facile and insulting attempt at making abortion services less available. With a dearth of abortion clinics, some women are made to travel a great distance for services they then have to wait three days to receive, adding the expense of accommodations and time away from work.

We created an exemption form for the waiting period that we expect Mary will deliver upon her arrival. We will seek to pursue legal action if that waiver is not respected.

(Image via Shutterstock)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.