A large crowd of demonstrators gathered on the south steps of the Utah State Capitol on Saturday to call for religious reproductive rights in the state.
Most protesters dressed in black and wore pentagram shirts, masks and horns – they were members of The Satanic Temple. Satanists called attention to Utah’s abortion laws following a restrictive Texas abortion law that took effect Sept. 1, which bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy and includes cases of rape and incest.
“We are not anti-Christian, we are not anti- any other group; we are just concerned about the bodily autonomy of our members,” said Thomasin Rite, a spokesperson for the congregation. “If there is somebody out there that doesn’t believe that abortion is right, I would suggest that they don’t get an abortion. The issue is when they take those abortion religious beliefs of their own and create laws that force other minority religions to not have those freedoms.”
The Satanic Temple is a federally recognized, nontheistic religion that views Satan as a symbol of “the eternal rebel in opposition to arbitrary authority” instead of a deity, said Chalice Blythe, a minister of the temple and member of its ordination council.
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Satanists espouse in seven fundamental tenets, two of which – tenets three and five – form the guiding principle surrounding reproductive rights, Blythe said. The two tenets state that one’s body is subject to one’s own will and that beliefs should conform to one’s best scientific understanding of the world.
“This rally is a show of support for [The Satanic Temple’s] continued efforts to fight egregious anti-abortion laws throughout the country that infringe on our religious rights to bodily autonomy, and access to scientifically valid medical information and care,” Blythe said.
“Every person has individual experiences and values,” she said. “We feel it’s really important to protect one’s ability to make [their own] decision.”
Counter-protesters also gathered at the Capitol to advocate against abortion, with members of Pro-Life Utah waving yellow flags with the word “life” printed on them. Omar Aquino, a student at Salt Lake Community College, attended the pro-life rally.
“It’s God’s plan for everyone to be given a chance in this world,” Aquino said while holding a yellow “life” flag. “Nobody’s life should be taken away, regardless of whatever situation.”
During the temple’s rally, a few pro-life protesters holding signs climbed the Capitol’s steps, interrupting members of the temple. However, neither demonstration became confrontational.
Blythe described Texas’ restrictive abortion law as “emblematic” of current and potential actions from other states. In response, The Satanic Temple argued that exemptions predicated by religious freedom extend to all religions, citing Texas’ Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
In March 2020, Utah adopted a “trigger law” that would prohibit abortion at any stage of a pregnancy, except under cases of rape, incest and to protect the health of the mother, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. The bill will take effect if the courts overturn or negate Roe v. Wade.
The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear a case concerning Mississippi’s ban on most abortions after fifteen weeks of pregnancy this December, which could have implications for Utah’s dormant “trigger law” depending on the vote outcome.
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