Last week, the state Department of Health and Human Services published a new rule that would require abortion providers to bury or cremate the fetal remains of an abortion — regardless of how far along the pregnancy is. Opponents have said this rule needlessly violates women's reproductive rights — and only amplifies the "undue burden" abortion rules place on women. Now, members of the Satanic Temple say it's also an issue of religious freedom.
"The Satanic Temple believes burial rites are a well-established component of religious practice. In addition, members of The Satanic Temple believe in the inviolability of the body and, as such, these rules contradict our fundamental beliefs," reads a statement posted on the Satanic Temple's website.
Temple spokesman Lucien Greaves said that health officials' transparent attempt to give fetal tissue the same rights as a human being (called "personhood" by anti-abortion advocates) directly conflicts with the Temple's beliefs.
"It’s clear these officials deem harassment an acceptable form of pushing their misguided religious agendas,” he said in a Friday press release.
Citing the Religious Freedom Reform Act, Greaves said members are immune from the new regulation unless the state can present a "compelling reason" for why they should be allowed to violate the Temple's religious beliefs. So far, church members don't see one.
"Clearly, the State of Texas has no compelling reason because these rules were not enacted to promote health and safety, but rather to harass and burden women who terminate their pregnancies," the Temple's website states, adding that the church will use the legal system to protect their members' rights.
It's not an empty threat. “We’ll file an injunction as soon as the state tried to impose this on a member who claims exemption," the Temple spokesman Greaves told Jezebel on Friday.
This isn't the first time the Satanic Temple has trolled anti-abortion laws that threaten women's rights. Last year, the Temple filed a suit against the state of Missouri for its law requiring women — including a member of the Temple — to wait 72 hours between seeing a doctor to request an abortion and receiving one. Like the Texas case, the Temple said this went against their religious freedoms, since the church believes bodies shouldn’t be subject to outside influence. The church even has its own legal aid fund to "actively challenge, arbitrary, insulting, and outright harmful anti-abortion legislation."
Texas' "fetal burial" rule is slated to go into effect on December 19.