The James A. McClure Federal Building in Boise is the largest of Idaho’s federal courthouses. (Otto Kitsinger for Idaho Capital Sun)
Attorneys representing the state of Idaho have asked a court to dismiss a lawsuit from the Satanic Temple over Idaho’s abortion laws, saying the organization lacks standing to pursue the case and refuting its legal arguments.
The Satanic Temple filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court of the District of Idaho at the end of September, along with a similar challenge in Indiana. The complaint argued against Idaho’s trigger law that bans nearly all abortions and the state’s civil enforcement law that allows family members to sue medical providers who perform abortions.
The Temple has filed many lawsuits in various states across the country alleging freedom of speech violations, including eight lawsuits listed on its website relating to abortion policy, religious monuments, public meeting prayers and other related topics.
The Satanic Temple asked the court to block the laws, claiming the laws are unconstitutional violations of property rights, the equal protection clause, religious freedom and involuntary servitude.
In the newly filed motion to dismiss, Idaho Deputy Attorney General Brian Church said the court should decline to hear the case because the state officials targeted in the lawsuit — Gov. Brad Little and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden — are shielded from lawsuits brought by residents of other states or foreign countries under the 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The Satanic Temple’s lawsuit also does not name specific individuals who have been harmed by Idaho’s abortion laws, Church said, and did not describe any injuries that have taken place.
“Instead, defendants and the court are left to speculate as to what hypothetical injury might happen to some hypothetical — or perhaps non-existent — member of The Satanic Temple, with no way to test the veracity of The Satanic Temple’s claims as to an actual person,” Church wrote. “The Satanic Temple should be required to identify a specific member (even if it never reveals the member’s true name to the public) and provide sufficient allegations as to that member to demonstrate that she would have standing to bring a claim herself, so that defendants may test the veracity of her allegations.”
Satanic Temple lawsuit - motion to dismiss
Satanic Temple’s interests not germane to Idaho abortion laws, attorney argues
The lawsuit said there are more than 1.5 million Satanic Temple members worldwide, including more than 3,500 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.
The Temple said Idaho’s abortion bans prohibit their members from engaging in what it calls a Satanic Abortion Ritual, grounded in their tenets, and therefore violates their free exercise of religion.
Church wrote that the organization’s interests detailed in the lawsuit are not germane to the organization’s purpose.
“The Satanic Temple has not alleged that its purpose as an organization is to preserve property rights, ensure compensation for services, or promote non-procreative sex. Its first three claims could — and should — be brought by individuals who are personally harmed in these various ways, rather than by an organization that only alleges an interest in preserving its abortion ritual,” Church wrote.
Attorneys for the religious group argued in the initial complaint 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 to the U.S. Constitution.
Church said in the complaint that the surrogacy argument doesn’t hold up.
“Pregnancy is temporary. To the extent that one of its members desires to become a surrogate for profit — and again, The Satanic Temple has failed to establish that any of its members have suffered an unwanted pregnancy, let alone that a member suffering an unwanted pregnancy wants to terminate that pregnancy in order to engage in the financial venture of surrogacy — that economically beneficial use is still available after the unwanted pregnancy is finished,” he wrote.
Church added that the property argument is not recognized under federal or Idaho state law, and that Idaho law states each human being’s life begins at fertilization, and statutes shall be interpreted to prefer, by all legal means, live childbirth over abortion.
“Idaho law does not recognize a right to abortion even when dressed up as a property interest. Without a property interest, the takings claim fails at the first stage, and must be dismissed,” Church wrote. “Abortion is not a fundamental right, an equal protection right, or a property right — it is not a constitutional right. Abortion is a moral question within the purview of the Idaho Legislature to research, debate, balance, and regulate. The Satanic Temple’s members’ recourse, if they disagree with Idaho’s policy on abortion, is at the ballot box.”
Motion states comparison to slavery is ‘legally indefensible’
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 Temple’s) claim that pregnancy is equivalent to the egregious and shameful practice of slavery is as legally indefensible as it is impertinent,” Church wrote. “The challenged statutes do not force women to have sex or to get pregnant. The statutes penalize persons for performing abortions in this state. They do not prescribe peonage, forced labor under a criminal surety system, or debtor labor. The statutes do not violate the Thirteenth Amendment, and The Satanic Temple’s claim should be dismissed.”
Similarly, the equal protection argument does not apply to victims of rape who seek abortions, according to Church’s motion. The state’s law includes a conditional carve-out for abortions provided to victims of rape.
“Although The Satanic Temple brought this case to obtain a right for its members to have abortions, it attempts to recast the asserted right as the ‘right to use contraception and engage in sex just for the pleasure and intimacy it brings.’ But this is not the pertinent ‘right’ at issue — abortion is the right at issue,” he wrote. “In other words, the challenged statutes allow victims of rape to obtain an abortion — relieving them of the burdens of pregnancy — while others may not. But there is no fundamental right to abortion.”
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