MARY DOE & SATANIC TEMPLE ABORT MISSOURI’S LITERAL SOUL SEARCHING
On Tuesday the Missouri Supreme Court heard Mary Doe v Eric Greitens and considered whether Missouri anti-abortion laws discriminate against Satanists’ religious beliefs.
I suspect Missouri Governor Eric Greitens should get used to seeing his name on a court docket. But this is about one of the many others ways Greitens screws Missouri women, so let’s not get distracted.
Satanist Mary Doe says that Missouri’s required anti-abortion reading material, ultrasound, and three day waiting period undermine her religious beliefs. And the Satanic Temple says that Missouri uses these tools to unconstitutionally preach in clinics.
And what does the state say? Honestly, some pretty weird shit if you look at it.
Missouri law insists that “abortion terminates the life of a separate, unique, living human being.” The question of who the hell asked remains up in the air.
“[That] the life of each human being begins at conception reads as a statement of biology” the anti-abortion law group the Thomas More Society argue in their amicus briefing. Note that TMS has a website titled “Stop Baby Parts Trafficking,” so I’m a touch skeptical about their pose of objectivity.
On our latest episode of Black Mass Appeal, Satanic Temple co-founder Lucien Greaves says this is really religious opinion posing as biology.
“It all comes down to the notion of when a fetus becomes ‘ensouled,'” argues Greaves. “And you see them trying to move the goalposts all the time.”
Honestly, I see why people like the idea that a sperm hits an egg and then a human ghost-soul zips down out of space. Takes the ambiguity out of things. And ponderous ambiguity about human nature is only good for Blade Runner fan theories.
But biology is not so cooperative. “I really can’t tell you when personhood begins, but I can say with absolute certainty that there’s no consensus among scientists,” Pennsylvania embryologist Scott Gilbert says in his oft-repeated lecture.
To illustrate, Gilbert poses a puzzler in his widely cited textbook Developmental Biology:
“Suppose that an egg is fertilized. At that moment the zygote gains a ‘soul,’ in Catholic thought. Then suppose that the zygote splits to form twins. Does the soul of the zygote split as well?”
Presumably, no, that wouldn’t make sense. But if not, where the hell did that extra soul come from? And if the twin zygotes merge back into one, where does the extra soul go?
Imagine the confusion of doing a headcount before you’ve even developed a head. Gilbert also says half the time a sperm fertilizes an egg but nothing happens. So does fertilization create “a unique human life” or doesn’t it?
Things always get weird when science mucks with “the soul.” Bodies change, but souls are supposedly crystalline and eternal. These concepts don’t get along, but people try to smush them together anyway.
During the Essex County witchcraft scare around Salem in 1692, people believed your soul could get up and go for a walk as a “specter.” But only witches—that is, Satanists—allegedly did this.
“Specters could transport themselves by flying or mysterious instant transmission,” English journalist Frances Hill writes in her 1995 book A Delusion of Satan, walking through walls and remaining invisible to most people. But at the same time they were solid enough that “if the specter was hit, the human showed the wound.”
This is contradictory, but the colonists treated the supernatural and the natural as interchangeable. “The distinction was so blurred as to disappear,” writes Hill.
Many modern Americans also treat the normal and paranormal as one. A fetus is a bunch of cells, but it’s supposedly also an invisible ghost person. Like the witches of Salem, it’s all smushed up.
Personally, I don’t claim to know when a fetus becomes a person. But I DO know that Mary Doe has definitely hit that benchmark, and has the legal rights that come with it.
Rather than probing eggs for specters and debating their rights, maybe states like Missouri should prioritize the rights of the citizens they definitely already have?