Earlier this summer, religious freedom was used as an excuse to allow corporations to refuse to offer a full range of birth control options in their insurance plans. Now that same religious freedom justification is being proposed by an alleged group of Satanists who want to exert their rights as well. While the comparison may strike many as odd and seem more like a political stunt than a real effort, what the group does is starting a very necessary discussion over whose religious freedom really matters, and if there are other ways to get around the country’s growing plethora of abortion and birth control restrictions and regulations.
The Satanic Temple, which describes itself as existing “to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people” and says that it “embrace[s] practical common sense and justice,” has started a campaign to demand “accurate medical information” when it comes to abortion and birth control. Citing the number of so-called “informed consent” bills across the country that force doctors to read from scripts that claim that abortion is the death of a “complete and unique human being” or that abortion causes suicidal tendencies, depression or a myriad of other unproven health issues, the Satanists say that they are simply demanding true, scientifically accurate information be used instead. To help pregnant people obtain that information, they have provided their own form to allow them to express their own religious objection to state mandated scripts.
“We believe that personal decisions should be made with reference to only the best available, scientifically valid information,” the groups states on their website. “If you are a woman seeking an abortion who shares these deeply held beliefs, please print the letter below to present to your care-provider, informing him/her that you are to be exempted from receiving ‘informed consent’ materials.”
After reading the principles of the Satanic Temple, there is a very strong possibility that, if you believe at all in bodily autonomy or the right to decide when and if to give birth, you too might be a “satanist.” The tenets are simple: a belief that a person has the right to decide what to do with her body and that the only information that should be in informed consent materials must be scientifically, not politically, based.
“This letter constitutes my acknowledgment that you have offered Political Information to me. I reject that Political Information because it offends my sincerely held religious beliefs. Please attach this letter to any forms you are required to keep regarding my informed consent,” concludes the form letter to be provided to a doctor.
You have seen the Satanic temple in action before. The most recent example is its proposed monument to be displayed at the Oklahoma State Capitol, next to one being donated that will display the Ten Commandments.
Like the Satanic monument, this new gambit seems like a joke but opens up a valid question: who is the arbiter of deciding which religions are acceptable religions, and whose beliefs are truly “sincerely held”? It’s a question that must at some point be answered, especially after court rulings stating that Christian only prayer at meetings is completely okay, and other judges are stating that the Judeo-Christian God’s law is the only true law.
It seems ridiculous that one would have to join a church in order to receive protections from any sort of overstepping into personal and private medical affairs, especially when all that person is asking for is accurate information and accessible health care. Yet that may in fact be the only option left, especially now that the Supreme Court has codified religious freedom as so expansive that it can trample other people’s desire to be left free from religious intervention in their day to day lives. With the “temple’s” only faith requirement being that you believe in science, and that you don’t think your belief system supersedes another person’s freedom, it’s a pretty low-demand religion to belong to.
Will the form letter really work to get pregnant people opted out of mandatory, non-medically accurate pre-abortion “informed consent” practices? Maybe not, but that would definitely be a case I’d like to see argued before the Supreme Court. And if it does work, I hope every pregnant person can add mandatory, unnecessary waiting periods, having ultrasounds verbally described and heartbeats heard, and a myriad of other restrictions added to the list of things with which she religiously objects.
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