JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a Satanic Temple member’s religious challenge to a state law that requires one of the nation’s longest waiting periods for abortion and mandates that women be offered an ultrasound first.
At issue is Missouri’s “informed consent” law that says women must wait three days to receive an abortion and requires those seeking abortions to be provided with a booklet that says “the life of each human being begins at conception.” Under the law, abortion providers also must give women a chance to view an ultrasound and hear the fetal heartbeat.
But Supreme Court judges wrote in their ruling that the plaintiff, an anonymous member of the Satanic Temple listed as Mary Doe in the court documents, failed to show that her religious rights were violated because Missouri law does not require women to read the booklet, receive an ultrasound or listen to a heartbeat.
“It simply provides her with that opportunity,” the judges wrote.
The woman’s attorney, James MacNaughton, said Wednesday that they’re disappointed. However, he added, there might be “some small measure of vindication” if the court ruling means women can turn down ultrasounds and still receive abortions.
He said whether that’s allowed under the law was unclear over the course of the court challenge.
Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis clinic is the only one that currently provides abortions in Missouri. A Planned Parenthood spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
The woman bringing the challenge traveled from southeastern Missouri to St. Louis in 2015 for an abortion at Planned Parenthood. The woman did eventually receive an abortion, but in a letter to her doctors included in court documents, she wrote that some of the state’s restrictions on abortion conflict with her beliefs to follow scientific understanding of the world.
The Salem, Massachusetts-based Satanic Temple doesn’t believe in a literal Satan but sees the biblical Satan as a metaphor for rebellion against tyranny.
The group has waged religious battles around the U.S. in recent years, including pushing unsuccessfully to install a statue of the goat-headed, winged creature called Baphomet outside the Arkansas and Oklahoma state capitols as counterpoints to Ten Commandments monuments. Members also proposed “After School Satan Clubs” in elementary schools from Oregon to Georgia where evangelical Christian “Good News Clubs” are operating.
Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s spokesman, Chris Nuelle, said in an email that the office applauds the ruling. Nuelle said the measure is “designed to protect women from undue pressure and coercion during the sensitive decision of whether or not to have an abortion.”
Twenty-seven states require a waiting period for an abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a national research group that supports abortion rights. Missouri is one of five states with the longest waiting period — 72 hours — in effect.
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