The Temple, an officially atheist nonprofit, argued in a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) should allow its members unblocked access to abortion-inducing drugs as part of a religious rite under the same standard that allows native tribal use of peyote.
“TST’s membership uses these products in a sacramental setting,” the group’s legal counsel wrote of abortifacient drugs mifepristone and misoprostol.
“The Satanic Abortion Ritual is a sacrament which surrounds and includes the abortive act. It is designed to combat feelings of guilt, doubt, and shame and to empower the member to assert or reassert power and control over their own mind and body.”
The letter says the group will start litigation if the FDA does not respond in the next 60 days.
The atheistic group distinguishes itself from Satanists that believe in a literal, supernatural devil.
When asked if older Satanic traditions inform the “abortion ritual,” TST co-founder and spokesman Lucien Greaves told The Texan that the ritual is a modern creation meant to “fulfill a real kind of emotional need for our membership.”
“We’re not so interested in archaic rites that are meant to instill some type of authoritarian conditioning where people are muttering phrases that they don’t understand and going through rote processes just to show that they robotically comply. Our rituals have always been more in the moment and something very cathartic and understood to be in reference to something tangible in real life,” Greaves said.
“In the current cultural environment, we feel that there’s so much effort being made to shame and guilt people who go to get an abortion and to try to misinform them about the scientific facts of their own personal choice that we felt that there was a real need for this kind of ritual that would act to mitigate those types of things… It’s a kind of miniature psychodrama meant to be cathartic, and there’s no supernatural element to it.”
According to TST, the ritual process involves moments of reflection before and after the abortion procedure. Greaves added that counseling before and after the procedure is also part of the ritual.
Greaves said the hefty fees authorized by the law would prevent TST from giving legal aid to members that face suits for post-heartbeat abortions.
“We are claiming this religious liberty argument, but it has yet to be established and formalized in the courts. And in order for us to be able to formalize this, we’re necessarily going to need a plaintiff, and that’s going to mean somebody’s in that legal situation. But before somebody jumps headlong into that and reaches out after the fact and wants the Satanic temple to support, they should reach out to us beforehand and let us speak to them about our approach here and about what realistic expectations are going forward,” Greaves said.
“Because the fact of the matter is if we have hordes of people accruing $10,000 fines in Texas, who knows how long we could keep up with being able to support that? Just by the limitations of our resources, we’ll only be able to take on a certain number of lawsuits at a time as well.”
The Heartbeat Act, passed in the regular legislative session as Senate Bill 8, authorizes Texan citizens to sue anybody, other than the mother, that carries out or aids an illegal abortion. Fathers who conceived the child out of an act of rape or incest may not sue. The bill says that defendants who lose must pay plaintiffs damages of at least $10,000 for every illegal abortion.
The legislature also recently passed a bill to prohibit distribution of abortifacient drugs by mail and limit their use to pregnancies of no more than 49 days gestation. The bill currently awaits the governor’s signature.
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