Satanic Temple files lawsuit over Idaho abortion laws

By: - October 7, 2022 11:15 am

The Idaho State Capitol building reflected in the Joe R. Williams building on May 5, 2021. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Mountain Sun)

Idaho faces another challenge to its abortion bans in federal court, but this time from the Satanic Temple, which argues the state’s abortion laws are unconstitutional violations of property rights, the equal protection clause, religious freedom and involuntary servitude.

The religious association filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court last week, along with a similar challenge in Indiana, which also has an abortion ban. In Idaho, District Judge Raymond Edward Patricco Jr. is assigned to the case.

The lawsuit argues against Idaho’s trigger law banning nearly all abortions and the civil enforcement law that allows family members to file lawsuits against medical providers who perform abortions. Both allow exceptions for rape and incest and to save the pregnant person’s life. The Satanic Temple asked the court to block the laws with an injunction.

The Idaho Attorney General’s Office declined to comment based on its policy of not commenting on pending litigation. Gov. Brad Little’s office could not be reached for comment.

Complaint argues Idaho laws are violations of constitutional freedoms

According to the complaint, there are more than 1.5 million Satanic Temple members worldwide, and more than 3,500 are located in Idaho. The Temple says it “venerates, but does not worship, the allegorical Satan described in the epic poem ‘Paradise Lost’ — the defender of personal sovereignty against the dictates of religious authority.”

Members must adhere to the Temple’s seven tenets, which include the idea that a person’s body is subject to their own will alone and that a person’s beliefs should conform to their best scientific understanding of the world. The fourth tenet also states that the freedom of others should be respected.

Attorneys for the religious group argue that the uterus of an “involuntarily pregnant woman” is a physical thing to which property rights apply, because eggs can be retained or removed, the uterus itself can be removed for any purpose, and it can be rented to a third party as a gestational carrier under a surrogacy agreement.

Those property rights cannot be violated by the state without just compensation, the lawsuit says, according to the Fifth and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

The Temple also says a pregnant person must provide a fetus with hormones, oxygen, nutrients, antibodies, body heat and protection from external shocks and intrusions, which are all services that an involuntarily pregnant person would be forced to provide under the state’s abortion bans.

“The Idaho abortion bans provide no compensation or consideration to an involuntarily pregnant woman for providing the services necessary to sustain the life of a protected unborn child that occupies and uses her uterus,” the complaint reads. “The … (pregnant people) are put into a condition of involuntary servitude in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment.”

Attorneys also argue the bans require discrimination between people who become pregnant by accident and those who were raped, which the complaint said violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Under the argument of religious freedom violations, the Temple said the state’s abortion bans prohibit members of the Temple from engaging in the Satanic Abortion Ritual. The ritual is grounded in the Temple’s tenets that a person’s body is theirs alone and not subject to violation by others. The ban therefore violates the state’s Exercise of Religious Freedom Act, according to the complaint.

“There are less restrictive means of furthering the state’s asserted interests served by the Idaho Abortion Bans than banning the Satanic Abortion Ritual,” the complaint said.

This is the second lawsuit filed in federal court regarding Idaho’s abortion laws, the first of which came in early August when the U.S. Department of Justice sued the state because it said the abortion ban violated the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act — or EMTALA — which requires hospitals that receive payments for the federal Medicare program to provide medical care to stabilize all patients who come to the hospital with a medical emergency.

District Judge B. Lynn Winmill granted a request to block the ban from applying to emergency room situations one day before the trigger law went into effect, and another hearing has not yet been scheduled in the case. Attorneys for the Idaho Legislature and the Idaho Attorney General’s office have asked Winmill to reconsider the order, saying he misinterpreted the law.

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Kelcie Moseley-Morris
Kelcie Moseley-Morris

Kelcie Moseley-Morris is an award-winning journalist who has covered many topics across Idaho since 2011. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Idaho and a master’s degree in public administration from Boise State University. Moseley-Morris started her journalism career at the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, followed by the Lewiston Tribune and the Idaho Press. She has covered city and county government, crime and courts, education and the Idaho Legislature. She has received awards from the Idaho Press Club for her reporting on the aftermath of a $4.5 million budget shortfall at Nampa School District, as well as her reporting on campaign finance. Her specialty is reporting complex subjects related to fiscal policy in a straightforward, understandable way. Born and raised in Boise, Moseley-Morris lives with her husband, their daughter, and a silly dog named Olive in Meridian. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling to new places, mostly for the food.