A Texas woman who identifies as a member of a Satanic religion has filed suit seeking to overturn several pro-life laws she says interfere with the Satanic “religious ceremony” of abortion.
The woman, known as “Ann Doe” in the lawsuit, is a member of the Satanic Temple (TST), which has a nationwide membership of more than 270,000 and views abortion as the culmination of a religious ceremony known as the “Satanic Abortion Ritual.” The ritual is performed prior to an abortion in order to “help its membership cast off guilt, shame, and mental discomfort that the member may be experiencing in connection with their election to abort the pregnancy,” the lawsuit says.
She lives 100 miles from the nearest abortion clinic.
The lawsuit challenges four elements of Texas abortion law: 1) a requirement to have a sonogram prior to the abortion, 2) a requirement that the pregnant woman is offered a chance to see the sonogram, 3) a requirement that the doctor or nurse describe the sonogram results to the woman, and, 4) a mandatory waiting period between the sonogram and the abortion.
The lawsuit says Texas’ abortion restrictions violate the Third Tenet of the Satanic Temple: “One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.”
Plaintiffs in the case are the Satanic Temple and Ann Doe.
“Ms. Doe objects as violative of the Third Tenet to these requirements’ as efforts to control the decisions she makes for herself and her body,” the suit says.
The suit describes the “Satanic Abortion Ritual” as one of the Satanic Temple’s “religious ceremonies.”
The lawsuit describes the ritual in detail: Immediately before the abortion, the woman is to look at her reflection to be “reminded” of her “personhood”and her “responsibility” to herself. The ritual instructions tell the woman: “Focus on your intent, take deep breaths, and make yourself comfortable. When you are ready, say the Third Tenet aloud.” After the woman says the Third Tenet, the abortion can begin.
“During the operation, take another deep breath and recite the Fifth Tenet,” the description of the abortion ritual in the lawsuit says. “Immediately after the surgery, return to your reflection and recite the personal affirmation. Feel the doubts dissipating and your confidence growing as you have just undertaken a decision that affirms your autonomy and free will. The religious abortion is now complete.”
The lawsuit says Texas law interferes with the ceremony, this “raising constitutional suspicions.”
The lawsuit describes the Satanic Temple as an “atheistic religious corporation.” TST “venerates (but does not worship) the biblical” Satan “as a promethean icon against tyranny,” the suit says.
“For TST and its membership, the Satan described in Paradise Lost and like works is a revolutionary antihero who stood up against impossible odds to seek justice and egalitarianism for himself and others,” the suit says.
The Satanic Temple propagates seven “tenets.” Among them: “One should strive to act with compassion and empathy toward all creatures in accordance with reason.”
In several ways, the beliefs of the Satanic Temple are the opposite of Christianity, the suit says. For example, in Satanism, the “self should be assigned a greater importance than the outside world.” Further, the Satanic Temple “does not subscribe to humility as a virtue and self-deprecation as a lifestyle.”
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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.