ST. LOUIS (CN) – An Eighth Circuit panel on Tuesday upheld the dismissal of a Satanist’s challenge to Missouri abortion laws based on her religious beliefs, finding she lacked standing because she wasn’t pregnant when she sued.
The plaintiff, identified as Mary Doe, sued then-Governor Jay Nixon and Chris Koster, Missouri’s attorney general at the time, in federal court in 2015 after receiving an abortion.
Doe, a Missouri resident and a member of the Satanic Temple, complied with the state’s abortion measures – which includes a 72-hour waiting period, a booklet on the fetus’ ability to feel pain and the option to listen to the fetus’ heartbeat – but says those measures run contrary to her religious beliefs.
In an unanimous ruling, a three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit affirmed the federal court’s dismissal of the case due to lack of standing because Doe “was not pregnant at the date the action was initiated.”
In a four-page, unsigned opinion, the judges wrote that “although ‘[p]regnancy provides a classic justification for a conclusion of nonmootness,’ the doctrine does not apply here because she did not first establish standing.”
“We are pleased with the court’s ruling,” Mary Compton, communications director for current Attorney General Joshua Hawley, said in a statement. “The attorney general’s office will continue to vigorously defend Missouri’s sensible waiting period law.”
Doe’s attorney did not immediately respond Tuesday to phone calls requesting comment.
She had argued in her complaint that an “unborn child” that is not “viable,” as defined by Missouri law, is “tissue” under her religious beliefs. She says that she “makes decisions regarding her health based on the best scientific understanding of the world, even if the science does not comport with the religious or political beliefs of others.”
Doe said that her “body is inviolable and subject to her will alone,” that her “inviolable body includes the tissue,” and that “(s)he alone decides whether to remove the tissue from her inviolable body.”
Her lawsuit claimed that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which is what Hobby Lobby used to successfully exclude itself from offering contraception coverage to its workers, does not define religious belief. The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby held that privately owned companies are not required to provide birth control to their employees as mandated by the Affordable Care Act.
The Satanic Temple has two related cases, involving identical or similar parties and arguments, pending in state court and federal court.
The Missouri Supreme Court heard oral arguments in one of those cases in January and has not yet released its ruling. In that case, Mary Doe – the same plaintiff in the Eighth Circuit case – was pregnant when she sued.
In February, Judy Doe filed a similar case in the Eastern District of Missouri against the state and certain named and unnamed doctors, also claiming she was pregnant at the time she filed suit. That federal court has not yet ruled on the defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.