The Missouri Supreme Court is set to hear a case Tuesday that’ll challenge the state’s “informed consent rules” for abortion.
Those three rules include requiring women seeking abortions to get an ultrasound, receive a booklet about the procedure and wait three days before receiving an abortion.
Attorneys representing a woman referred to as Mary Doe will argue her case under religious grounds, which they say is the first-time informed consent laws have been challenged in such a way.
Among other things, they’ll contend that the law burdens the free exercise of Mary Doe’s religious beliefs, which include the view that her fetus is part of her body and not a separate, unique, living human being. Mary Doe’s attorneys will also state that her religious beliefs call on her alone to decide whether, when and how to proceed with aborting her fetus.
Mary Doe professes to be a member of the Satanic Temple, which according to the group’s website, encourages goodwill among all people, rejects tyrannical authority and advocate for practical common sense and justice.
According to court documents, Mary Doe of Greene County went to the Planned Parenthood facility in St. Louis in 2015 and handed personnel a letter stating her beliefs, and asked them to forego the consent laws in her case. She filed her lawsuit against the state after Planned Parenthood followed the law and went through the required process called for by the rules.
New Jersey based Attorney James Mac Naughton, who will represent Mary Doe before the Supreme Court, says Missouri’s consent law basically tells women their committing a felony by having an abortion.
“In the state of Missouri, if you go to get an abortion, the state of Missouri lectures you on the religious proposition that a fetus is a human being, a separate living independent human being,” said Mac Naughton. “Implied in that is that getting an abortion is committing murder.”
Mac Naughton says that Mary Doe’s case is being argued on religious grounds similar to principles argued in the Hobby Lobby case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 2014, Hobby Lobby successfully argued that having to supply certain birth control to employees was an infringement on their beliefs and violated the federal Restoration of Religious Freedom Act. Birth control such as the morning after pill aborts fertilized eggs, which Hobby Lobby considers a human life.
Lawyers for Mary Doe contend the state’s informed consent rules violate the Missouri Restoration of Religious Freedom Act, and barring that, violate religion clauses in the U.S. Constitution. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from making any law “respecting an establishment of religion.”
Attorneys for the state will back a trial court’s conclusion that Mary Doe failed to prove the consent laws are based on religious views that violate the state’s Restoration of Religious Freedom Act. Mary Doe’s initial case before a trial court was rejected, as was a second amended lawsuit.
Meanwhile, a federal lawsuit was filed by a person also calling herself “Mary Doe”, along with the Satanic Temple, challenging Missouri’s informed consent laws. The federal court dismissed the Satanic Temple suit as not having any grounds to challenge the Missouri law. That case is now under appeal.
The State contends the informed consent law does not establish any religious belief, but instead represents the state’s political and philosophical interest in protecting unborn human life. Mac Naughton says consent laws that exist in numerous states illegally bring religion into public policy.
“Missouri has a unique mix of the components,” Mac Naughton said. But the components differ from state to state. And the objective is really all the same, is that the state adopts a particular religious point of view, and then proselytizes to a woman who is getting an abortion.”
Ultimately, Mac Naughton thinks the state’s informed content law is a governmental overreach into the personal affairs of Mary Jane.
“Once she goes into planned parenthood. Once she goes into get a medical procedure, the state of Missouri has no business preaching to her about when human life begins. That’s a violation of the constitution. That’s a violation of the Restoration of Religious Freedom Act.”
The state Supreme Court will hear argument in the Mary Doe case Tuesday morning in Jefferson City.