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Why the Satanic Temple in Salem is working to increase abortion access in Texas

"This is a matter of religion for us."

Statue of the Baphomet, at the Satanic Temple in Salem. Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images

Leaders of the Satanic Temple aren’t just outraged with Texas’s strict new abortion law.

They say it’s also a matter of religion.

“Consistent with our tenets that call for bodily autonomy and acting in accordance with best scientific evidence, The Satanic Temple, based in Salem, religiously objects to many of the restrictions that states have enacted that interfere with abortion access,” the religious group’s website says.

Temple officials are also taking matters into their own hands. Lucien Greaves, TST’s co-founder and spokesperson, said the Temple has sent a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, citing religious freedom to seek the ability to provide its members with abortion pharmaceuticals as part of its Satanic Abortion Ritual within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy.

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“We’ve ritualized and centralized the abortion process so that beforehand somebody needing an abortion can come to us for preliminary counseling in which there’s these affirmations that attest that they made their choice within their understanding of the best available options and that this is the right choice for them, and that they did it in line with their religious tenets, which are our own,” Greaves said in an interview with Boston.com. “And then after the abortion takes place there’s a similar after counseling process.”

Texas’s new law bans abortion after the first six weeks of pregnancy – that’s usually the time when cardiac activity can be found. Oftentimes, a person may not know they’re pregnant at six weeks, according to NPR. There are no exceptions, even for rape or incest. And other states are considering similar bans. The Texas law also allows for anyone to file a lawsuit against someone who helped another get an abortion, and they could be paid $10,000.

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The issue, and the Temple’s involvement, didn’t start overnight, according to Greaves. TST announced its abortion ritual back in August 2020, according to its website.

Members of TST don’t agree with the key facet of the Texas law.

“We don’t agree that life begins at conception,” Greaves said. “We don’t agree that the non-viable fetus is a unique and distinct individual with human rights. We believe it’s tissue belonging to the pregnant person and it’s their choice whether they bring it to term or not. It’s nobody else’s choice. This is a matter of religion for us.”

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To qualify for an abortion through TST, those seeking one must get clearance from a medical professional, who must consider if “there are ‘contraindications’ to obtaining an abortion as defined by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists or the American Academy of Family Physicians,” according to the Temple’s website.

“So it really wouldn’t be any different than if they went to a practitioner and got it directly from them,” Greaves said.  “It’s just we would be the ones distributing it.”

The Temple is also fundraising to help pay for its efforts – there’s already been a lawsuit filed against TST for “some of the superfluous non-medical roadblocks between a member’s desire to have an abortion and actually being able to get one,” Greaves said. The organization is seeking $200,000; as of Monday, it had taken in $100,000.

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TST plans to continue its work even if the FDA rejects its ability to distribute abortion pharmaceuticals on religious grounds, according to Greaves.

Greaves acknowledged that this matter will likely continue beyond Texas as other states look to adopt similar bills. He said the Temple plans to follow the issue to other states.

Worldwide, Greaves said there are about 500,000 members, and there are active congregations in Texas.

Outside of TST, Greaves said he hopes people will become familiar with the issue, read about it, and understand it. 

“People being passive about this really hurts,” he said.

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