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Satanic Temple Cites Religious Freedom Restoration Act to Request Access to Abortion Drugs in Aftermath of Texas Ban

The abortion drug Mifepristone, also known as RU486, is pictured in an abortion clinic February 17, 2006 in Auckland, New Zealand.

The abortion drug Mifepristone, also known as RU486, is pictured in an abortion clinic February 17, 2006 in Auckland, New Zealand.

Citing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a group of Satanists are asking the Food and Drug Administration for access to “abortion pills without having to jump through regulatory hoops,” the group announced Friday.

The Salem, Mass.-based The Satanic Temple indicated that the request was designed to take aim at a Texas abortion ban that took effect this week. The Texas law prohibits abortions starting approximately six weeks after conception, and it relies on private parties for enforcement — thus making it difficult for federal courts to intervene.

“While legal scholars wring their hands over Texas lawmakers[‘] attack on Roe v. Wade, Satanists are using creative approach to allow women in Texas access to abortions:  religious freedom,” the Temple said in a news release. “For a few years now the Satanic Temple has been using its status as a religion to argue that access to abortion is a faith-based right.”

The group noted that last year, the Supreme Court refused to hear a case brought by the Temple which sought to overturn Missouri’s abortion laws.

“I am sure Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — who famously spends a good deal of his time composing press releases about Religious Liberty issues in other states — will be proud to see that Texas’s robust Religious Liberty laws, which he so vociferously champions, will prevent future Abortion Rituals from being interrupted by superfluous government restrictions meant only to shame and harass those seeking an abortion,” said Satanic Temple spokesperson Lucien Greaves.

In a letter to the FDA, the group said it wished to obtain access to abortifacients mifepristone and misoprostol. The letter seeks a religious exemption from the federal “risk evaluation and mitigation strategy” (REMS) for the drugs mifepristone and misoprostol.

The group continued explaining its legal argument in a press release:

Access to Misoprostol requires a prescription, and Mifepristone can only be obtained through an approved prescriber and can only be dispensed in accordance with specific guidelines. Satanists say they should have access to the pills for religious use — something the FDA has already approved in a different situation.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was instigated and enacted to assure Native Americans could have unfettered access to peyote for their religious rituals. Consistent with this purpose, The Satanic Temple wants unfettered access to abortifacients for its religious use. Given that peyote is a Schedule I drug with no accepted medical use, [the Temple’s] request for access to prescription drugs is an even more reasonable ask that should be granted under Federal law.

The letter to the FDA goes further:

TST’s membership uses these products in a sacramental setting. The Satanic Abortion Ritual is a sacrament which surrounds and includes the abortive act. It is designed to combat feelings of guilt, doubt, and shame and to empower the member to assert or reassert power and control over their own mind and body. The REMS prescription requirement substantially interferes with the Satanic Abortion Ritual because the Government impedes the members’ access to the medication involved in the ritual.

Based on the foregoing, it is my client’s position that the prescription requirement infringes upon its memberships’ religious liberty, in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. (Citation omitted.) My client therefore demands a religious exemption from the REMS program for mifepristone and misoprostol.

The group says it “desires to adhere to medical oversight of the drugs” because it “has every desire to ensure the health and safety of its membership.” The group suggests that anyone who wishes to go through with its so-called “Satanic Abortion Ritual” would first go to a doctor for medical clearance and to return to the Temple with, in essence, a permission slip. The member would “engage[] in the ritual” and then “return[] to the doctor for follow-up evaluation” within seven to 14 days.

“Because there is no prescription, the member would obtain the drugs from TST, directly, rather than require the use of a pharmacy,” the letter to the FDA explains. “This removes the doctor and the pharmacist from the process while simultaneously ensuring medical oversight for the safety of the patient.”

The group provides a link to its website to explain precisely what a “Satanic Abortion Ritual” entails:

The Satanic abortion ritual provides spiritual comfort and affirms bodily autonomy, self-worth, and freedom from coercive forces with the affirmation of TST’s Seven Tenets. The ritual is not intended to convince a person to have an abortion. Instead, it sanctifies the abortion process by instilling confidence and protecting bodily rights when undergoing the safe and scientific procedure.

[ . . . ]

Immediately before taking the medication(s) to terminate your pregnancy, look at your reflection to be reminded of your personhood and responsibility to yourself. Focus on your intent, take deep breaths, and make yourself comfortable. When ready, read the Third Tenet aloud to begin the ritual. After swallowing the medication(s), take another deep breath and recite the Fifth Tenet. After you have passed the embryo, return to your reflection, and recite the personal affirmation. Feel doubts dissipating and your confidence growing as you have just undertaken a decision that affirms your autonomy and free will. The religious abortion ritual is now complete.

The group wrote to the FDA that it hopes to have a reply within 60 days. If no reply is forthcoming, federal court litigation is threatened.

[Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images]

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now deputy editor-in-chief for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only. You should not rely on it for legal advice. Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.