The Missouri Supreme Court will soon be determining the legal status of Missouri laws requiring a 72-hour waiting period and informed consent before a woman can obtain an abortion.
A three-judge panel of the Western District of the Missouri Court of Appeals transferred a case challenging those laws to the state's highest court last week.
The litigation was filed by an anonymous woman styled as Mary Doe who is a self-proclaimed member of The Satanic Temple, which is based in Massachusetts.
The Satanic Temple professes not to believe in a supernatural Satan, but uses imagery of Satan to promote "pragmatic skepticism and personal autonomy" and that "one's body is inviolable and subject to one's will alone."
Mary Doe contends that Missouri's informed consent law violates the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment because it requires that she subscribe to what she describes as "the religion-based Missouri tenet."
That tenet, according to Doe, is a statement contained in informed consent materials furnished by the state that declares the scientific fact that "the life of each human being begins at conception" and that "abortion terminates the life of a separate, unique, living human being."
Missouri's current informed consent statute was adopted by the Missouri General Assembly in 2010, and was initiated and developed by the Missouri Family Policy Council.
The expansive law requires that women considering abortion receive information regarding the development and humanity of the unborn child, and the nature and risks of the abortion procedure.
The law stipulates that abortion clinics must provide women with the opportunity to view an ultrasound of their child, and to hear the heartbeat of the child if it is audible.
Mary Doe argues that the law fosters "an excessive entanglement between the State of Missouri...and the religious belief that fetal tissue is a separate and unique human being from conception whose destruction is morally wrong."
A Cole County Circuit Judge dismissed the Satanic Temple lawsuit, but the Western District Appeals Court has now revived it and sent it on to the Missouri Supreme Court.
The appellate judges concluded that the case raised "real and substantial constitutional claims," and thus was within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Missouri Supreme Court.
It would seem that the Satanic Temple is waging an uphill battle in its effort to nullify the state's informed consent statute. The U.S. Supreme Court has a longstanding precedent upholding such laws.
In its Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision of 1992, the High Court ruled that states may provide women with accurate information about the abortion procedure to ensure that their decision is an informed one. The Court also affirmed the right of states to encourage women to choose childbirth over abortion.
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley has pledged to vigorously defend "Missouri's sensible waiting period law" from the legal challenge by Jane Doe and the Satanic Temple.