Appeals court to hear challenge to 2 Missouri abortion restrictions next week | St. Louis Public Radio

Appeals court to hear challenge to 2 Missouri abortion restrictions next week

Sep 10, 2017

Two of Missouri’s abortion restrictions are again being challenged on religious grounds in court by a member of the Satanic Temple.

The state Court of Appeals will hear arguments Monday on whether a woman, identified in court documents as Mary Doe, should have been allowed to opt out of the state’s 72-hour waiting period and its informed consent laws. A Cole County circuit judge threw out the case of in December, saying she had not made a strong enough argument.

It will be up to the Court of Appeals to decide whether Doe’s lawsuit goes to trial.

Doe traveled from Greene County in southwest Missouri to St. Louis in 2015 to have an abortion. She gave the doctor at Planned Parenthood a letter claiming a religious exemption to Missouri’s law that requires women to wait 72 hours to have an abortion.

The letter also said she would not review a booklet about the development of the fetus, which says that life begins at conception and the abortion ends “the life of a separate, unique living human being.”

The doctor rejected the letter and Doe later sued, saying the law infringed on her right to practice her religion freely.

“She was being prevented from obtaining an abortion in a manner that was conforming with the best scientific understanding and medical information to her,” Satanic Temple national spokeswoman Jex Blackmore said. “And that’s fundamental to her religious beliefs.”

The Satanic Temple, a self-described political activist group and religious organization" that promotes science and social justice, also is challenging the two restrictions in federal court. A hearing before the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled for Sept. 20.

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State officials do not comment on pending lawsuits. The attorney general’s office argued in court documents that the Cole County judge was correct to throw out the case because the law didn’t require Doe to do anything other than hear information she didn’t agree with.

“Under the plain language of the statute, the interest in avoiding exposure to information with which one disagrees is not an ‘exercise of religion’ because it does not involve any “act or refusal to act” that is substantially motivated by sincere religious belief,” attorneys for the state wrote in their brief.

The general counsel for the Missouri Catholic Conference, Tyler McClay, said he was confident the appeals court will agree with the original decision.

“There are other arguments you could make with regards to whether it’s an undue burden on a woman to have to wait 72 hours, or whether it’s medically necessary,” he said. “I don’t see it falling on a religious argument like the one she’s making.”

There’s no set date for the Court of Appeals’ ruling.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann