A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld a Missouri law that requires abortion clinics give every woman a booklet stating that life “begins at conception.”
The unique case involves a female member of “The Satanic Temple” who became pregnant and then sued the state, asserting the law violates her religious beliefs and also violates the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment.
The woman was called “Judy Doe” in court documents.
The law requires abortion clinics give women a booklet stating: “The life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.” Women are not required to read the booklet, which also includes illustrations showing the development of an unborn baby every two weeks.
Doe believes the “‘Human Tissue’ that she was carrying was ‘part of her body,’” the judges noted.
“As she stated in her complaint, her ‘body is inviolable’ and ‘[s]he alone’ gets to decide what to do with it, regardless of ‘the current or future condition of the Human Tissue’ within,” Judge David R. Stras wrote.
The court, in a 3-0 decision, ruled the Missouri law does not violate the U.S. Constitution.
A state, Stras said in the opinion, “does not establish religion by passing a law that just ‘happens to coincide or harmonize with the tenets of some or all religions.’”
“Some religions, including Catholicism, embrace the view that life begins at conception. Others, like Doe’s Satanism, do not. Any theory of when life begins necessarily aligns with some religious beliefs and not others,” Stras wrote. “So under Doe’s theory, Missouri’s only option would be to avoid legislating in this area altogether.”
The judges also quoted the U.S. Supreme Court’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey plurality opinion (1992), which held that informed consent laws serve “the legitimate purpose of reducing the risk that a woman may elect an abortion, only to discover later, with devastating psychological consequences, that her decision was not fully informed.”
Stras was nominated by President Trump, as was Steven Grasz, who also joined the opinion. Duane Benton, the third judge to join the opinion, was nominated by President George W. Bush.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Estradaanton
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.