Texas lawmakers did what reproductive rights advocates have long feared — passed a severely restrictive anti-abortion law, which went into effect after the Supreme Court decided not to block it in a 5-4 decision.
Such restrictions are an infringement on religious freedom, says Lucien Greaves, a Detroit native and co-founder and spokesman for The Satanic Temple. He says one of the religious, cultural and activist group’s seven central tenets is bodily autonomy.
“We feel that this is a philosophical dispute, and the state government authorities have no place in dictating our beliefs to us, and we believe that it is up to the person who is pregnant, whether they want to carry fetal tissue to term or not,” he says.
“The state government authorities have no place in dictating our beliefs to us, and we believe that it is up to the person who is pregnant.” –Lucien Greaves, The Satanic Temple
In response to an increasing number of anti-abortion bills in the U.S., The Satanic Temple has created a ritual surrounding the abortion process.
In the organization’s own words, “Consistent with our tenets that call for bodily autonomy and acting in accordance with best scientific evidence, The Satanic Temple religiously objects to many of the restrictions that states have enacted that interfere with abortion access as well as other related issues that affect members’ religious rights.’“
The abortion ritual recognizes that abortion is health care, Greaves says.
“People often need abortion, and especially in this environment now, where there’s really strong efforts to instill shame in people over having to get an abortion or you’re trying to talk them out of the decision they make, we felt that it was important to set up a supportive environment,” explains Greaves. Prior to abortion itself, Satanic Temple members undergo a religious counseling session before the procedure and an exit session.
“What those sessions do is affirm that this was a decision made with deference to our tenants, the best available scientific evidence, the will of the person who’s carrying the child or the fetal tissue and that this was something their religious community fully understands and accepts,” he says.
With the Texas abortion law taking effect, The Satanic Temple has several campaigns aimed at fighting restrictions on access to abortion, including a lawsuit in process in Texas. The temple is demanding the state recognizes members’ right to bodily autonomy, including abortion.
“The government has no place in dictating to us how we exercise this practice. And to that end we’re willing to fight, to be able to ensure that our members are still able to receive abortions even in places like Texas,” he says.
After the near-ban on abortion took effect in Texas, The Satanic Temple delivered a letter to the FDA seeking unregulated access to abortifacients, which are substances from herbs to medications that induce abortion, to distribute to the organization’s members who need them. If they do not hear back from the FDA, Greaves says a lawsuit could potentially be filed.
Greaves says the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a federal law passed in 1993 aimed to protect Native Americans’ usage of peyote and more broadly protect minority religious groups like the Satanic Temple, sets a solid precedent in defense of their use of pharmaceuticals.
“As the theocrats, the evangelical nationalists have been pushing more and more to restrict abortion, at the same time simultaneously, they’ve been trying to offer a carte blanche to religious organizations and religious liberty, and that’s now what we have to take advantage of. I think that’s carved out maybe the final niche to keep reproductive rights in defense,” he says.
Listen: Lucien Greaves of The Satanic Temple on how Texas’ abortion law is an infringement on religious freedom.