A satanist fighting Missouri’s informed-consent law – which requires that a woman requesting an abortion wait 72 hours and be informed of her options and the consequences of the procedure – is up against “basic scientific facts,” according to a pro-life legal organization.
The Thomas More Society, in a brief supporting the state in a case brought by a satanist who sought an abortion, explains that the law required that she be provided with “materials describing the development of the unborn human being she was carrying, (b) the opportunity to observe the movements and/or hear the heartbeat of that human being by means of ultrasound video and audio, and (c) reasonable time to consider the implications of these things.”
The brief, submitted to the state Supreme Court, argues these are “empirical means of ascertaining basic scientific facts about the circumstances in which a woman makes a decision about abortion.”
“It is fundamental error to confuse them with scriptures, creeds, confessions, sermons, or other means of religious instruction,” the brief contends.
The satanist, who is not identified in the suit, claims the state was imposing a religious belief on her, noting she doesn’t believe life begins at conception. She contends that a state law requiring her to be given information about the abortion process and wait 72 hours violates her beliefs.
However, Attorney Thomas Olp, Thomas More Society counsel, argued the abortion waiting period and consent requirements dictated by the law are “based on verifiable scientific facts.”
“The question of when life begins is a scientific question, not a religious one. It is an observable scientific fact that the life of a new, genetically distinct organism of the human species begins at conception,” he said.
Judge John Beetem, in Missouri’s Cole County Circuit Court, previously dismissed the complaint, explaining the woman failed to show the state was promoting a religious “dogma.”
The case was appealed to the state’s Supreme Court.
Olp said the woman’s claims are “fundamentally confused.”
“She asserts that whether an embryo is a ‘separate unique, living human being’ or ‘a part of her body,’ depends on one’s religious convictions,” he said. “She thinks that the statement: ‘the life of each human being begins at conception’ is a political or religious conviction. And she erroneously claims that it is a matter of religious opinion that abortion ‘will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.’
“In fact, none of these are religious or political claims, but established scientific facts,” he said.
The brief explains: “By blurring the distinction between fact and belief, appellant attempts to invoke constitutional and statutory protections for religious belief to prevent the state from offering to present to her materials containing scientific facts and an opportunity to make observations for herself.”
The brief says there is “certainly no right to prevent the state from offering scientific facts as part of the informed consent process for a uniquely significant medical procedure.”
The question of when life begins isn’t unanswered by the 1973 Roe v. Wade opinion that created a right to abortion, the brief explains.
“Scientific research has demonstrated that the fusion of sperm and egg plasma membranes – ‘a rapid event that takes less than a second to complete’ – immediately yields a new human organism.”
Those facts are even taught in scientific textbooks, the brief notes, including the statement, “Human development is a continuous process that begins when an oocyte (ovum) from a female is fertilized by a sperm (spermatozoon) from a male.”
The brief says the ‘truth of the findings … does not depend on anyone’s beliefs.”
“Appellant does not – and cannot reasonably – argue that [Missouri law’s] requirements that a qualified professional offer her the ‘opportunity to view … an active ultrasound of the unborn child and hear the heartbeat of the unborn child if the heartbeat is audible’ amounts to anything other than the opportunity to make an empirical observation of the unborn human for herself,” the brief explains. “It is self-contradictory for her to complain of the state’s offers of scientific information on the putative ground that her religious beliefs require her to adhere to scientific information.”