Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Missouri Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments In Satanic Temple Believer's Challenge To Abortion Law [UPDATED]

As reported by the Washington Post, the Missouri Supreme Court yesterday heard oral arguments in Doe v. Nixon,  a case brought by a woman who is a member of the Satanic Temple, challenging Missouri's restrictions on abortion. (See prior related posting.) Missouri's requires that abortion providers give patients a pamphlet that states :"The life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being." Plaintiff contends that this violates her rights under the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act. As reported by the Post:
[T]he Satanic Temple has a set of tenets that stipulate that a woman’s body “is inviolable and subject to her will alone”; that “she makes decisions regarding her health based on the best scientific understanding of the world, even if the science does not comport with the religious or political beliefs of others”; and that “human tissue,” — how the complaint defines a pregnancy dating to its conception — is part of her body that “she alone” can decide whether to remove.
UPDATE: A recording of the full oral arguments is now available online. According to a press release from the Satanic Temple:
D. John Sauer, Missouri’s Solicitor General announced to the State’s Supreme Court that ultrasounds are not mandatory to obtain an abortion. This information no doubt comes as a surprise to Missouri’s abortion providers who regularly perform ultrasounds they have perceived as mandated by the State. The issue arose during oral arguments in The Satanic Temple’s (TST) lawsuit, which asserts that State interference with the ability for a member of TST ... to terminate her pregnancy violates her rights under Missouri’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) because that interference has no medical or other compelling purpose.... 
... In an audio recording of the arguments published by the court, Justices of the court asked the State’s representative if, “it’s the position of the State that an ultrasound does not have to be conducted unless a person says they want the opportunity to hear the fetal heartbeat.” (13:16) Mr. Sauer affirms that the State’s interpretation of statute (MO Rev Stat § 188.027) is that women only be offered the “opportunity,” to have an ultrasound and listen to the fetal heartbeat, and if a woman declines hearing the audio, the ultrasound need not be performed and the requirement has been satisfied (15:20).