Looks like Satanists have a lot more empathy for women than GOP conservatives, because the Satanic Temple is fighting back against Ohio’s draconian fetal heartbeat bill. The provision, which would ban abortions later than six weeks into the pregnancy, was recently passed, but is still awaiting Governor John Kasich’s signature. It is being called the most-restrictive abortion legislation in the country, especially considering that most women don’t even know they’re pregnant at that point. And now the non-theistic religious community is asserting religious exemption to the impending law.
While most times religion has been used to push forward the anti-abortion agenda, the Satanic Temple’s counter is a clever way to argue women’s bodily autonomy.
“To us, the heartbeat is irrelevant to the claim of personhood,” TST spokesperson Lucien Greaves explained in a press release. “We do not advocate for a belief in the soul, therefore we feel that complex cerebral functions necessary for perception are what makes a person a person. The non-viable fetus (a fetus that cannot survive outside the woman’s body) is, we feel, a part of the woman’s own body, and it is her choice whether or not she continues the pregnancy.”
This isn’t the first time that the Satanic community has come out supporting a woman’s right to choose. Last year, the organization filed a lawsuit against Missouri for the state’s abortion restrictions, again citing the regulation as infringing on the First Amendment right to religious expression. The community did something similar when it came to Texas’s recent fetal burial rule. While Satanists might get a bad rap, they don’t actually worship the devil. More recently, as with the abortion issue, the group has fought to separate institutionalized religion from how people are governed. If anything, they’re clever trolls throwing punches back against traditional systems, and in doing so taking on a worthwhile fight.
“We have been in touch with Planned Parenthood in other states to apprise them of our actions when they may be affected by what we do,” Satanic Temple co-founder Malcolm Jarry told Inverse, explaining that the Temple is happy to work alongside Planned Parenthood, even though it has a different motivation for fighting the provision.
“In general, the mission of Planned Parenthood is to provide certain health services to the broad population that requests their services. We are a religious organization that fights for the religious rights of our members. Existing law supports our claim for religious exemption for our members, whereas other entities, such as Planned Parenthood, who may object to this proposed law have a greater hurdle to overcome because there may be many whom they serve who do not religiously object to the law. Nevertheless, if Planned Parenthood, or any other entity, wants to support our efforts, we would be happy to work with them.”
Plenty of people have used religious freedom to help their case. Last year, a woman who identifies as Pastafarian, the religion that believes in a spaghetti monster that created the universe, gained the right to wear a colander on her head in a driver’s license picture after originally being denied by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles.
Often times, it appears that religious freedom is a last ditch attempt to redirect blame or simply reach for an excuse. In the case of the Satanists, at least they’re championing for something like a woman’s choice over her own body.
“We take our religious beliefs very seriously and will not hesitate to use the legal system to defend our rights,” Jarry says.