Satanic Temple opens online abortion clinic named after Samuel Alito’s mother

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

The Satanic Temple has announced the launch of an online abortion clinic, offering telehealth screenings and appointments and prescribing abortion medication for patients who want to take part in its “religious abortion ritual.”

The group, which describes itself as a “non-theistic religious organisation” and is not to be confused with the Church of Satan, said it hopes to expand the clinics into states that have restricted abortions in the aftermath of a Supreme Court ruling that ended Roe v Wade.

The Temple has named the initiative “The Samuel Alito’s Mom’s Satanic Abortion Clinic,” in reference to the conservative Justice who wrote the majority opinion that overturned the abortion rights case that had been the law of the land since 1973.

“In 1950, Samuel Alito’s mother did not have options, and look what happened,” said Malcolm Jarry, co-founder of The Satanic Temple.

“Prior to 1973, doctors who performed abortions could lose their licenses and go to jail. The clinic’s name serves to remind people just how important it is to have the right to control one’s body and the potential ramifications of losing that right,” he added.

The Temple, which claims to have over 700,000 members, described the programme as the “world’s first religious abortion clinic.” Patients pay a pharmacy for the medication, but medical and religious services are free, it added. The patients must be in New Mexico at the time of the visit and have a New Mexico mailing address.

The clinic currently has five registered nurses on staff each week, all registered in New Mexico, and an advanced nurse practitioner who prescribes medication.

Based in Salem, Massachusetts, the Temple deploys irony-laced legal action and publicity stunts to highlight the intrusion of religion into public life, using religious laws in the United States to fight against restrictions on access to abortion.

Last year, it sued Indiana and Idaho in federal court, arguing that the state’s abortion bans infringe on the rights of members.

The lawsuit contends that a pregnant woman is entitled to terminate her pregnancy in accordance with the temple’s Tenet III — “One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone” — and its “Satanic Abortion Ritual,” which includes “a personal affirmation that is ceremoniously intertwined with the abortion,” it explains on its website.

The Temple cites the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to argue that the ritual exempts its members “from enduring medically unnecessary and unscientific regulations when seeking to terminate their pregnancy.”

The Samuel Alito’s Mom’s Satanic Abortion Clinic drew condemnation from Catholic groups even before its launch. In a joint statement issued on 7 February, the New Mexico Conference of Catholic Bishops said: The last thing we need in our state is a Satanic temple from Massachusetts to offer free ‘reproductive health’ services (read abortion).”

“We shudder to think what the ‘Religious Abortion Ritual’ that they require is all about,” the statement, which was signed by Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe, Bishop Peter Baldacchino of Las Cruces and Bishop James Wall of Gallup, among others.

Speaking to The Independent on the morning of its launch, Chalice Blythe, minister of Satan at the Temple, said the clinic is part of a long tradition of using existing statutes to ensure the equal application of religious laws.

”It’s how we’ve done things historically, whether it’s bodily autonomy or abortion access. We are simply utilising religious protection for us to have free exercise of our religion,” she told The Independent. ”There are laws and restrictions that are constantly passed that deny us the ability to free exercise,” she added. “Any legal action we take is to protect our ability to practice our faith.”

Erin Helian, the Temple’s religious reproductive rights director, told The Independent that the naming of Samuel Alito’s Mom’s Satanic Abortion Clinic was “pretty deliberate.”

“It was something we had been considering for some time in order to highlight the injustices that came from Justice Alito’s decisions and how it impacts our bodily autonomy,” she said.

Despite the humour in the name, she said that the Temple’s work is deeply serious.

“There's always a concern that our humour is mistaken for a lack of seriousness. However, when it comes to things like the clinic, I know that our work is going to speak for itself. I know the number of people we're going to be able to help with this, especially when we move into other states. Eventually, the work will speak for itself,” she said.