What offends a Satanist? Apparently, it's what also offends an abortionist – any mention of an unborn child's humanity.
"Mary Doe," an anonymous member of a group calling itself the Satanic Temple, has instigated a lawsuit alleging that Missouri's informed consent for abortion law violates her religious beliefs. She says that the statute's requirements impose Christian tenets on her and, as such, are unconstitutional. Her case, after having been dismissed by a trial court, has now reached the Missouri Supreme Court on appeal.
At the heart of the lawsuit is the statement that abortion terminates a human life. Doe asserts that for the government to publish this empirical fact in a booklet given to women considering abortion is to foist a religious doctrine upon them. In other words, according to this litigant, calling a being who is undeniably human a human being is wrong.
Confused? You should be.
This action launched by a member of a "church" named for the father of lies, is itself based on a lie. And if you try to follow an argument sprung from a lie, you'll never reach the truth.
In this case, the Satanist plaintiff's arguments contravene reason and deny science.
First of all, Doe assumes that if a law is in harmony with certain religious teachings, it must be based entirely on those teachings and constitutes the establishment of a state religion. If this were the case, however, vast numbers of criminal laws in every state would be struck down as unconstitutional.
For instance, laws against murder and stealing are traceable to the Ten Commandments handed down by God to Moses, yet they are ubiquitous. Every state legislature in the nation imposes morality on its citizens by deciding what behavior is punishable. That a law happens to agree with a church's teaching does not render it an entanglement with religion.
Moving to the law in question, Missouri has adopted informed consent measures that have previously been upheld by courts. Among them are requirements that, 72 hours prior to an abortion, a woman be informed of the various risks associated with the procedure, who she can call and where she can go should complications arise, and the age and characteristics of the child in her womb. Missouri also ensures that a woman be offered the chance to view an ultrasound image of her unborn baby and hear the child's heartbeat, both of which she may decline to do.
Of particular concern to Doe is the informational booklet given to Missouri women. It states, "The life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being."
A similar statement contained in South Dakota's informed consent for abortion provisions was declared constitutional by a federal appeals court six years ago. Five other states are enforcing similar statutes where women considering abortion are informed, either in writing or verbally, that the baby in the womb is a human being.
State declarations that life begins at conception and that human embryos are "human beings" are neither pronouncements of religious doctrines nor conjecture. As Maureen Condic, associate professor of neurobiology and adjunct professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah School of Medicine, writes for the Charlotte Lozier Institute:
The conclusion that human life begins at sperm-egg fusion is uncontested, objective, based on the universally accepted scientific method of distinguishing different cell types from each other and on ample scientific evidence (thousands of independent, peer-reviewed publications). Moreover, it is entirely independent of any specific ethical, moral, political, or religious view of human life or of human embryos.
In short, that the entity in a pregnant woman's womb is a human being is not a matter of religious dogma, it's a physical reality. Catholic teaching itself is informed by this fact. Yes, the church strongly opposes abortion based on the biblical command against murder, but its recognition of the unborn child as a member of the human family is supported by science.
The Missouri law, and other state laws like it, are not saying that the unborn child is a person with a soul or someone worthy of constitutional protection (although the unborn child clearly is); it's merely informing a woman that her baby is a human being. Period.
It's not really surprising that Doe falsely assigns religious motivations to statements of scientific fact. She also assigns feelings to herself that logically she could not possibly feel. While declaring before the court that she does not believe that life begins at conception or that abortion terminates a human life, she says that she "felt guilt and shame" after reading those statements before her abortion. But how could this Satanist feel guilt and shame if she believes she did nothing wrong? Could it be that scientific reality, namely the truth of the unborn child's humanity, pierced through the lies she claims to believe?
Mary Doe may not realize it, but her case proves that to argue in favor of abortion, you have to abandon reason itself.
Father Frank Pavone (@frfrankpavone) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is the national director of Priests for Life.
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