The Satanic Temple (TST) last week sent the Food and Drug Administration a letter asking that its members be granted access to abortion pharmaceuticals, free from the agency’s regulations. To co-founder Lucien Greaves, Texas’ abortion law is the latest legislation threatening the religious liberty of temple members.
“I think that abortion is a fundamental service that should be offered in civilized society,” he said, “and I think we’re taking several steps back with these theocratic bits of legislation.”
Last week, Senate Bill 8 went into effect, banning abortion after six weeks, before most women know they’re pregnant. While many conservatives are claiming the law as a victory, abortion advocates warn that the future of reproductive rights is in limbo.
The Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act is serving as the group's legal justification because it "provides a mechanism to seek an exemption from any law that restricts the free exercise of religion," according to TST's website. They allege that SB 8 hampers members' ability to undergo the temple's abortion ritual.
The religion has seven fundamental tenets, including that one's body is "subject to one’s own will alone."
TST would have to be denied an exemption before they could press a lawsuit, Greaves said, adding that much of what it is attempting hasn’t been done before.
“It’s going to take an enormous amount of work to get to where we want to get to if we’re carving out a niche for claims of conscience when it comes to protecting reproductive rights,” he said. “But certainly, that’s not a reason to give up. That’s all the more reason to press on harder than ever before.”
The temple’s challenge exposes just how outrageous and inherently hypocritical SB 8 is, local reproductive rights advocate Soraya Santos said in a Facebook message.
Still, Santos doesn’t view the past week as a loss. Rather, she said it ushered in a wave of support from people nationwide, culminating in the “biggest show of support abortion rights has ever had.”
People are now understanding that TST works to uphold humanist values instead of “worshipping a red guy with horns,” Santos said.
“Contrary to what the GOP was hoping for, support for abortion rights has never been stronger and more powerful." – Soraya Santos, reproductive rights advocate
“Contrary to what the GOP was hoping for, support for abortion rights has never been stronger and more powerful,” she said. “And not only do we vote, but people who have never voted before are registering to do so because of this. Because they realize it's gone too far.”
This isn’t the first time The Satanic Temple has pushed back against abortion restrictions in the Lone Star State.
In December, they unveiled a billboard in Dallas declaring "Abortions save lives!" The group has also filed a lawsuit against Texas, claiming that some of its abortion regulations violated members’ religious liberty.
Anti-abortion organizations are ramping up their efforts, too.
The group Texas Right to Life created a website for people to tattle on those they believe defied the new ban. SB 8 empowers private citizens to sue anyone who has “aided or abetted” an abortion in violation of the law.
But after domain hosting service GoDaddy removed the whistleblowing site, Texas Right to Life Vice President Elizabeth Graham insisted they’d stick with their mission, according to Houston news channel KHOU 11.
“Texas Right to Life is undeterred and we’re undaunted, and we’re going to continue to help pregnant women,” she said.
TST will also keep fighting to ensure equal treatment of its members under the law, Greaves said. They’ll push to carve out exemptions for their followers to receive abortions, but to Greaves, it’d be a lot better if they didn’t have to.
“The real best-case scenario,” he said, “is that people really wake up, realize that we are in the midst of nothing short of a theocratic overthrow of a democratic republic, and that we do everything we can to get those fuckers out of office who are initiating it.”