A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Satanic organization challenging Missouri's informed consent law on abortion. In an action that drew little to no
attention from the secular media, U.S. District Judge Henry Autrey last month granted the state's motion to dismiss the litigation filed by a group called the Satanic Temple.
Missouri's informed consent law, adopted by the General Assembly in 2010, requires that women considering abortion be provided information concerning the nature, risks, and alternatives to abortion. The Missouri Family Policy Council was the leading force behind the statute, and we drafted most of its language.
The information required under the law is presented to an abortion-minded woman through a booklet prepared by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. That booklet, which the Satanic Temple describes as the "Missouri Lectionary," includes descriptions and images of the anatomic features of the
preborn child at two-week gestational increments of development.
The printed information also includes the scientific statement that "the life of each human being begins at conception," and "abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being," which the Satanic group calls the "Missouri Tenets."
Members of the Satanic Temple argue that these basic biological facts violate their "religious" convictions. The plaintiffs assert their belief that an unborn child is "human tissue" that is part of a woman's body, and that "she may in good conscience have human tissue removed from her body." The plaintiff's petition says
that it is a "scientific fact that an umbilical cord makes human tissue part of a woman's body."
Attorneys for the Satanic Temple contend that "all women have the right...to exercise their freedom to believe when human life begins." The lawsuit alleges that it is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution for the State of Missouri to acknowledge the biological truths regarding how and when human life begins, and to "compel exposure to [these] religious beliefs."
The lawsuit also takes aim at a law adopted by the Missouri Legislature in 2014 which extended the waiting period for an abortion from 24 to 72 hours. The Satanic Temple says that the combination of the informed consent and waiting period laws "encourage a pregnant woman...to forego an abortion," and "create doubt, guilt, and shame in the mind of a pregnant woman who does
not believe the Missouri Tenets."
Judge Autrey did not rule on the merits of the case, but instead concluded that the Satanic Temple did not have legal standing to bring the lawsuit. In order to establish standing, a plaintiff must demonstrate "an injury in fact" that is "particular and concrete." Judge Autrey decided that the Satanic group had failed to satisfy the concrete injury element.