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8th Circuit again rejects lawsuit filed by Satanic Temple against Missouri law declaring life begins at conception

by | Jun 9, 2020

By Dave Andrusko

It only seems like the cases have dragged on forever and it may still not be over. But earlier today a 8th Circuit Court of Appeals panel unanimously affirmed the dismissal of one of several suits brought by one of the Satanic Temples against Missouri’s informed consent law.

Specifically, “Judy Doe” challenged the requirements that she “certify in writing that she has both had a chance to view an ultrasound at least 24 hours ahead of time and received  an informed-consent booklet,” as outlined by Judge Dave Stras who was  joined in the opinion by Judges Duane Benton and Steven Grasz.

The passage in the booklet at issue “expresses Missouri’s view that ‘[t]he life of each human being begins at conception [and that] [a]bortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.’”

This particular challenge by Judy Doe argued that being required to “review certain information before having an abortion…violates her Satanist beliefs.” The circuit court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of her contention that the law “violates the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment.”

[Judge Stras noted that Judy Doe subsequently added a third claim after the fact: that the law “creates an undue burden on her right to an abortion,” which the panel rejected.]

Judge Stras explained that Judy Doe contended that as a  member of “The Satanic Temple,” she “believes that the ‘Human Tissue’ that she was carrying was ‘part of her body’ and that she alone “gets to decide what to do with it, regardless of ‘the current or future condition of the Human Tissue ‘within.” Her basic argument was “that states may never adopt a ‘theory of when life begins.’”

But Judge Stras retraced a series of Supreme Court decisions that affirming that “states still have a role to play on this issue,” including Webster ll, Casey, and Carhart.  In Webster ll, the High Court wrote that  Roe v. Wade “implies no limitation on the authority of a State to make a value judgment favoring childbirth over abortion.”

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