INDIANAPOLIS (WXIN) — The Satanic Temple is challenging Indiana’s near-total abortion ban with a lawsuit that takes aim at Senate Enrolled Act 1 and claims the ban infringes on their followers’ religious rights and violates the U.S. Constitution.
Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb and Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita are named as defendants in the lawsuit. The Satanic Temple—based out of Salem, Massachusetts—boasts 1.5 million members worldwide, including 11,300 members in Indiana.
Despite often being confused with the Church of Satan or Satan worship, the Satanic Temple doesn’t believe in or worship the Biblical Satan. Instead, they venerate “the allegorical Satan described in the epic poem Paradise Lost — the defender of personal sovereignty against the dictates of religious authority.”
The Satanic Temple lists its mission as encouraging benevolence and empathy, rejecting tyrannical authority, advocating practical common sense, opposing injustice and undertaking noble pursuits. The temple is well-known for fighting for equal access to religious rights and challenging institutions that install laws or practices that only adhere to a singular religious belief — most notably Christianity.
The lawsuit, which was filed on Sept. 21, states that a female member of the Satanic Temple who resides in Indiana is being denied the right to exercise her religious beliefs by being denied access to an abortion under the new Indiana abortion ban. The woman became pregnant “without her consent,” according to the lawsuit, and gave the reason for this involuntary pregnancy as the legal inability of the woman to consent to sex (other than rape or incest) along with the failure of birth control.
Tenet III of the Satanic Temple tenets states, “one’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.” Under this tenet, the temple said the fetal tissue carried in the woman’s uterus is not seen as an “unborn child,” as Indiana Code states. Instead, from conception to viability, the fetal tissue is not believed to be imbued with any humanity or existence separate and apart from that of the pregnant woman herself.
The lawsuit also notes Tenet V, which states that “beliefs should conform to one’s best scientific understanding of the world.” Under this tenet, the lawsuit points out that early stages of fertilization, such as the creation of the zygote, are referred to as being an “unborn child” in the Indiana abortion ban. But through Tenet V, or through a scientific understanding, members of the Satanic Temple do not see a zygote, blastocyst, embryo, or nonviable fetus as an “unborn child.” These cells are seen as part of a woman’s body and not imbued with existence, humanity, or spiritual life; the lawsuit explains.
Under the two tenets previously explained, the lawsuit states that members of the Satanic Temple have the right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy as an exercise of their religious beliefs. By Indiana criminalizing abortion, these members are being denied their religious rights which violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the lawsuit argues.
The lawsuit in total lists five counts against the near-total abortion ban in Indiana including calling it a violation of the Thirteen Amendment, which prohibits involuntary servitude. By forcing a woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, the suit argues women are being put “into a condition of involuntary servitude.”
Read the full lawsuit below.
The Satanic Temple members are not the first to challenge Indiana’s near-total abortion ban. A Monroe County special judge recently blocked the ban from being enforced after a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Indiana and a group of abortion providers challenged the new law, which went into effect on Sept. 15.
The judge’s injunction means the state reverts to the previous abortion law, which allows up to 20 weeks.
In her ruling, Judge Kelsey B. Hanlon indicated that there are several issues that still must be decided before the law can be enforced. Hanlon found some arguments from the plaintiffs strong in their merits and conceded that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Dobbs case shook the “analytical landscape” of federal questions surrounding abortion.
Indiana courts are not, however, bound by that interpretation of the law when it comes to the state’s constitution, which has at times been interpreted to “give greater protection to the individual liberties of Hoosiers.”
Hanlon acknowledged that the state had an interest in regulating abortion “so long as that regulation is not in violation of the Indiana Constitution.”