Just in time for Christmas, drivers cruising down Highway 80 in Dallas can now catch a glimpse of a 10-by-40-foot bulletin from The Satanic Temple declaring, “Abortions save lives!”
In addition to Dallas, the organization has posted billboards in Houston and Miami, said Sydney Goodwin, the temple’s Religious Reproductive Rights spokesperson. So far, the ads have inspired “overwhelmingly positive” reactions from Satanic Temple members, Goodwin said.
“We have had some on social media say that they’d love to take a trip to one of the three cities just to see the billboards — and, in fact, I would too,” she said with a laugh.
The temple unveiled two designs last week; both state, “Our religious abortion ritual averts many state restrictions.” The Dallas billboard goes on to say, “Pregnancy complications are the sixth most common cause of death among women between the ages of 20 and 34.”
The second billboard depicts a woman telling her friend that Satanists don’t have to endure state-mandated waiting periods for an abortion.
Erected last week, Dallas’ billboard will stay up until mid-January, Goodwin said. It seeks to notify local Satanists of the temple’s abortion ritual, a process by which members reflect on Satanic tenets and a personal affirmation while receiving an abortion.
Goodwin said the ritual provides spiritual comfort and feelings of self-worth during what some consider to be a difficult time.
“It’s a process to provide spiritual sustenance in a satanic way,” she said.
The Satanic Temple sought to post billboards in states that have enacted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act; 21 states have done so in all, including Texas and Florida. Satanists living in such states don’t have to comply with certain medically unnecessary and unscientific abortion regulations, such as waiting periods or mandatory listening to the fetal heartbeat, Goodwin said.
Temple organizers also made sure to place the billboards near crisis pregnancy centers, which Goodwin said are frequently confused with abortion clinics. To the unsuspecting layperson, those centers seem as though they would provide abortion services, but they instead offer advice that deters women from undergoing the procedure.
The billboards come as the Texas GOP doubles down on its mission to end a woman’s right to abortion.
Thursday, the Republican Party of Texas said in a statement it will “relentlessly work” to end abortion during the state’s upcoming legislative session. It also accused women’s reproductive health care provider Planned Parenthood of openly working with Satanists to “slaughter” and “dismember” unborn children.
In response, Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Manny Garcia on Friday accused Republican leadership of trying to distract from their failure to contain the COVID-19 crisis.
“The Texas Republican Party has gone off the dead end,” Garcia said in an emailed statement.
This isn’t the first time The Satanic Temple has tried to rent a billboard.
In September, TST sued Lamar Advertising Co. for religious discrimination because it had refused to post the religious organization’s designs. The advertising giant denies the temple’s initial allegations, according to a TST press release.
Although Goodwin can’t comment on the active lawsuit, she said TST ultimately struck a deal with billboard company Clear Channel Outdoor.
Of course, not everyone is happy about the billboards, including commenters on an article by right-wing news site Breitbart.
“Satanic Temple is not a ‘religion.’ It's a cult that wants to murder people,” one commenter wrote.
But TST’s website claims it is a religious organization with a mission to encourage empathy, benevolence and common sense, while opposing tyrannical authority and injustice.
Even pro-choice critics may think the temple’s billboards could ultimately work against its calls for an expansion on women’s reproductive rights. This is Texas, after all, and the Republican Party will continue its quest to close clinics.
Goodwin said that while she understands that sentiment, the temple is ultimately responsible for protecting its membership’s religious rights — including the right to a religious abortion ritual.
“Satanists have religious views in accordance to our tenets,” Goodwin said. “Us demanding medical care in accordance to our religious views, as is required by law, is a right that should be guaranteed to us.”
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