I’ve been following this story for the past few weeks and I’ve debated if I should write about it. The reason for it, is that as an Atheist and a Skeptic, I don’t endorse any religion. But after reading an opinion piece by the attorney Howard Slugh in the National Review. I think the case bears mentioning.
The story is of “Mary Doe” who appealed to the Satanic Church of New Your to help her sue Missouri over a 72 hour waiting period for abortion. The suit declares that the 72 hour waiting period for an abortion violates Mary’s religious freedom to get an abortion on demand.
Missouri, like many states has a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), similar to Indiana’s RFRA that got their Governor in hot water a couple of months ago. The difference between Missouri’s RFRA and Indiana’s is that Missouri’s really doesn’t have any teeth.
That brings me to Slugh’s (what an unfortunate name) article. He begins by assessing the Satanic Church itself concluding that they don’t really worship the devil, but “troll religious people”. This is kind of like how Prosperity Christians really don’t believe in Christ, they just troll poor people. What Slugh is doing is trying to discredit the Church’s religious beliefs as “valid” religious beliefs (which is an oxymoron).
The suit rests that by forcing a woman to wait 72 hours and receive pamphlets on “alternatives” to abortion, violates the woman’s right not to have religion forced upon her. In Missouri, women are subjected to sit through a lecture and read material that is anti-abortion in nature and then wait the 72 hours before the procedure. The trouble with that is two fold. One is that the reason women must endure the lecture, etc. is based on religious moralization. The second reason, and the most heinous, is that the law treats women as incapable decision makers by assuming that women would not, or cannot, weigh the pros and cons of such a large decision for themselves; the state has to force them to do so.
Slugh, naturally, calls the suit frivolous, and he may be right, Missouri’s RFRA has almost no teeth. Also, he states that the suit is over Mary being exposed to views contrary to her religion as the base of the suit (When does “life” begin? When is a clump of cells a person? different religions have different answers, different philosophies as well — thus no answer is “factual” and belongs in a medical pamphlet) , but this is a misrepresentation. However, an article by the Washington Post, that is more representative of the facts of the case, point out that the 72 hour waiting period violates her religious tenets and her privacy. This is the kind of case that may go to the Supreme Court.
Where Slugh is correct, and what led me to write this post, is that the case is not just about the violation of women’s rights, but about publicity. And what beautiful publicity it is! The case is highlighting the religious right’s hijacking the public conversation of morality by institutionalizing their own morality. That IS a violation of other’s religious beliefs. The law suit is another chip in the religious wall erected to silence non-Christian views, and will further push people away from faith-based morality and towards philosophical (secular) based morality. Such a notion scares the religious right as the last refuge their push to accept religion is that without it, there can be no morality. Of course this is a bogus claim (here’s a video with a strong rebuttal to that claim).
While the religious angle is one battle in a much larger war, it is a little distracting to the main concern: Individual Reproductive Rights. I say, individual rights because a person’s right to plan their family goes beyond gender. In this specific case it concern’s a woman’s right to plan when and how to handle her pregnancy. And in Missouri, the state has decreed that women are not responsible enough to take the time and effort to think about a huge life decision, and thus must dictate how, and for how long they do so.