The state of Texas, with approval from the U.S. Supreme Court, instituted the most draconian set of anti-abortion laws in the last 50 years this Tuesday. While pro-choice advocates scramble to save what’s left of Roe v. Wade, their salvation may come from an unexpected place: the Satanic Temple.
The nontheistic religious group, based out of Salem, Massachusetts, has filed a letter with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration arguing that their members should be allowed to access abortion pills without regulatory action. The temple is attempting to use its status as a religious organization to claim its right to abortion as a faith-based right.
The group argues that they should have access to the abortion pills Misoprostol and Mifepristone for religious use through the The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) which was created to allow Native Americans access to peyote for religious rituals. Under these rules, the Temple is arguing that they should be granted those same rights to use abortifacients for their own religious purposes.
“I am sure Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton—who famously spends a good deal of his time composing press releases about Religious Liberty issues in other states—will be proud to see that Texas’s robust Religious Liberty laws, which he so vociferously champions, will prevent future Abortion Rituals from being interrupted by superfluous government restrictions meant only to shame and harass those seeking an abortion,” wrote Satanic Temple spokesperson, Lucien Greaves in a statement.
Satanists hold bodily autonomy and science sacrosanct, he said, and abortion “rituals” are an important part of those beliefs. “The battle for abortion rights is largely a battle of competing religious viewpoints, and our viewpoint that the nonviable fetus is part of the impregnated host is fortunately protected under Religous Liberty laws,” he added.
Last year the Supreme Court refused to hear a case from Satanists to overturn Missouri’s abortion laws, but the group is hoping that an appeal to the federal government could make a difference.
In the past few years, the Satanic Temple, which has about 300,000 followers, protested a Ten Commandments monument erected outside of the Arkansas Capitol by erecting their own statue, a bronze satanic goat monster Baphomet next to it. In the Illinois Capitol rotunda, they were able to install a statue of an arm holding an apple with a snake coiled around it next to a Christmas nativity scene and a Hanukkah menorah.
“The State of Illinois is required by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution to allow temporary, public displays in the state capitol so long as these displays are not paid for by taxpayer dollars,” said a sign next to the statue. “Because the first floor of the Capitol Rotunda is a public place, state officials cannot legally censor the content of speech or displays. The United States Supreme Court has held that public officials may legally impose reasonable time, place and manner restrictions regarding displays and speeches, but no regulation can be based on the content of the speech.”
In spite of its name, the Satanic Temple largely stands as an activist institution, with the intent to fight the proliferation of religion in U.S. policy and law.
Correction, September 5, 2021: A previous version of this article misspelled the name of the Satanic Temple.