The Satanic Temple Sought to Upend Missouri Abortion Law. Their Plans Went to Hell

May 8, 2019 at 6:00 am
The Satanic Temple Sought to Upend Missouri Abortion Law. Their Plans Went to Hell

When you are pregnant in Missouri, choice is a tricky thing. The billboards tell you "Choose Life," but what other options are there? The state's sole abortion provider, the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis, might be hundreds of miles away.

Where to turn? The phone numbers on the billboards lead to "pregnancy resource centers." Missouri funds these centers on the condition that they never mention abortion.

What about just traveling to Planned Parenthood in St. Louis? It's not only distance standing in the way. Since 2014, state law has required a three-day waiting period between initial consultation and procedure. During that consultation, the state requires your doctor to present an "informed consent" pamphlet, which asserts, "The life of each human being begins at conception. Abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being."

In 2015, one Missouri woman made a different choice. She turned to Satan.

That year, "Mary Doe" became the pseudonymous plaintiff at the heart of an audacious legal campaign that was part satire and part earnest fight for civil rights. Her story was the linchpin of a lawsuit aimed at arguing that bodily autonomy is a core religious belief for secularists within the Satanic Temple, as important as protecting a fetus would be for a devout Christian.

But as the Temple's lawsuits taking on abortion restrictions twisted through state and federal courts for nearly four years, behind the scenes, Mary Doe grew disillusioned. Even as the Satanic Temple fought on behalf of her right to autonomy, she claims its leaders disregarded her perspective and silenced her. She's particularly angry at the Temple's chief spokesman, Lucien Greaves.

"I told [Greaves], 'You need to be more open and listen to me," Doe recalls in a recent interview. Thanks to a gag clause with the Satanic Temple's attorney, it's the first time she's spoken to the media about the case in more than three years.

She blames Greaves for what happened next.

"I wrote to him and the attorney both, saying, 'I want out of the case.'"

On April 29, 2015, Mary Doe was 22 and already a single mom. She worked part time for an auto mechanic in central Missouri, she said, with a salary that barely covered her living expenses, let alone a three-day trip to St. Louis. She was almost twelve weeks pregnant.

At that time, the Satanic Temple was sprouting branches across the country. Its biggest splash involved the stone Ten Commandments installed at the Oklahoma state capitol. The Satanists crowdsourced their own statue, "Baphomet," an eight-foot-tall, angel-winged, goat-headed figure seated on a throne beneath a pentagram, flanked by two young children gazing up adoringly at its horizontal pupils. Then they offered to donate it to Oklahoma. The state, predictably, said no — but ultimately were forced to remove the Ten Commandments as a result. That accomplished, the Temple turned to a less jokey stunt— a lawsuit focused on abortion rights.

Legally, an organization can't just argue a law is unconstitutional. It has to demonstrate standing, by suing on behalf of an individual who can show their rights are personally being violated. In Roe vs. Wade, that was Norma McCorvey — the "Jane Roe" who wanted an abortion in Texas, where it was a crime.

For the Satanic Temple, Mary Doe — pregnant, wanting an abortion and badly inconvenienced by Missouri's laws — seemed an ideal plaintiff to make the case that its members deserve the legal privileges of any mainstream religion.

"I'm not brand new to the Satanic Temple or atheistic Satanism," Mary Doe told the Riverfront Times in April 2015. "This is something that I've always really wanted to do, to argue with the laws that make things so difficult for women.

"Of course," she added, "I've not been in the situation I currently am right now where it's affected me directly."

If not for those laws, Doe said, she would have gotten an abortion "as soon as possible." The state's only clinic being in St. Louis necessitated transportation, lodging, childcare and time off from her job.

"If you're right on the edge of the state," she noted, "you've got to go 500 miles just to get up there."

Complicating matters further was the state law requiring that 72 hours pass between first consultation and abortion. With it, Missouri tied Utah and South Dakota for the longest abortion waiting period in the country.

It was just the sort of law the Satanic Temple was looking for. In 2014, the same year Missouri mandated the 72-hour waiting period, the Temple had announced its intent to use the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case — a decision that allowed employers to exempt themselves from laws infringing on religious belief — as the basis for its own challenge.

Central to the Temple's argument was that it, too, is a religion. Since its members hold beliefs about the life of a fetus, shouldn't they get a religious exemption of their own? According to the Temple's third tenet, "One's body is inviolable, subject to one's own will alone." Arguing that Missouri's abortion restrictions violate that tenet was both an interesting legal theory and high-level trolling.

The pseudonym the Temple suggested for its plaintiff, "Mary Doe," was chosen as a reference to the mother of Jesus, who was told her unplanned parenthood would one day be a blessing. Doe "liked the cleverness of it," she said.

If Doe prevailed, the state could be obligated to treat a Satanist's belief in bodily autonomy as equal to, for instance, a Catholic's opposition to birth control. Members of the Satanic Temple could seek religious exemptions to the state's 72-hour waiting period.

The irony was immediate and deliciously, well, Satanic. It just needed to hold up in court.

St. Louis' Temple chapter easily raised $800 in a GoFundMe to assist with Doe's transportation and lodging in St. Louis. (The procedure itself was paid for by the local nonprofit Gateway Women's Access Fund.)

And the story of pro-abortion Satanists turning to the courts quickly went national. After the RFT published an interview with Doe, her quotes were republished in Jezebel and the Washington Post. Pro-life outlets picked up the story as well, reveling in clear evidence that abortionists were in bed with the devil.

On May 8, Doe took a Greyhound bus to St. Louis with her toddler, who squirmed in the seat next to her as hundreds of miles of countryside rumbled by. Then, at the Planned Parenthood clinic in the city's Central West End, Doe presented the staff with a letter.

The letter declared Doe "an adherent to the principles of the Satanic Temple." It also listed her sincerely held religious beliefs: Her body is inviolable and subject only to her will. Her body includes any fetus or embryo that cannot yet survive on its own.

"I and I alone decide whether my inviolable body remains pregnant," the letter continues. "I may, in good conscience, disregard the current or future condition of any fetal or embryonic tissue I carry in making that decision." The letter demanded that Planned Parenthood "not abide" by the state's waiting period.

In response, Planned Parenthood staffers — who were definitely not on board for the Satanist's previously announced stunt — gave Doe the pamphlet carrying the required disclosure that life begins at conception. They told her to come back in 72 hours.

Three days later, Doe had her abortion. A few hours later, she settled in for a long bus ride back home, her toddler bouncing on her lap because she'd been unable to book a second seat.

The Satanic Temple had its first plaintiff.

Satanic Temple spokesman Lucien Greaves is trying to wrest religious privilege from "supernaturalists." - KAYLA SCHIERBECKER
Satanic Temple spokesman Lucien Greaves is trying to wrest religious privilege from "supernaturalists."

On a Sunday three months after Mary Doe's abortion, the co-founder and national face of the Satanic Temple entered the campus of Washington University in St. Louis. He had been invited as the keynote speaker at a conference of atheists.

"Lucien Greaves" (real name: Doug Mesner) co-founded the Satanic Temple in 2012, and almost immediately established its distinctly tongue-in-cheek style of activism. Greaves, a prolific writer and quick-witted debater, became the face of the temple through a newspaper column in the Orlando Weekly and as a guest on cable news shows.

A pale figure with a severe haircut and a commitment to black clothing, Greaves seemed to embody his role as the devil's spokesman. He arrived on campus surrounded by admirers and members of the local chapter (most of whom also sported dark ensembles). Some managed a vendor booth with Satanist T-shirts, buttons and mugs. There was even a stack of Satan-themed children's activity books, published as part of the group's attempt to create "After-School Satan Clubs" in elementary schools.

Despite its Luciferian aesthetic, the Temple actually rejects belief in a literal devil. Satan is presented as metaphor or "cultural construct," Greaves explained, a symbol for defying authority and embracing skepticism and independence.

In the Temple's perspective, the contradiction of a secular group with a religious belief system isn't so contradictory. A faithless faith can still have tenets and rituals. The belief system reflects sincere values, which, Greaves argued, makes it no different than the evangelical groups that hold after-school programs or erect stone tablets on courthouse lawns.

"If you concede that religion belongs solely to supernaturalists," Greaves said, "you're saying that your own deeply held values, your own sense of cultural identity, isn't as valuable as that of the superstitious."

At that time, Mary Doe's lawsuit was barely three months old. Greaves said he expected the litigation to be "a slow and costly process."

"But," he added quickly, "I feel like we actually have a really good shot, and the lawyers feel that we have a really good shot. Even if we don't win, but we put up a credible enough fight, I think you'll find people thinking more logically about where the plateau is, realizing that when you do open the door to these kinds of privileges and exemptions, you have to be prepared to offer them to opposing views as well as your own."

Greaves' prediction of a slow and costly process would prove accurate, but at the beginning of the ride, the legal effort already seemed to be paying dividends in publicity, helping establish the Temple as more than just a group of secular occultists pranking religion. These Satanists were serious. They had lawyers.

Greaves' optimism was noteworthy in retrospect. He peppered his interview with erudite points about the Temple's philosophy and its commitment to fighting for civil rights of women like Doe. In reality, unbeknownst to reporters and to all but a small circle of Temple's highest officers, the Temple's relationship with its poster plaintiff was months away from cracking.

In Greaves' entourage that day in St. Louis was Nikki Moungo. An atheist activist and a member of both the Temple's national council and the St. Louis chapter's board, she'd always liked a good fight against unfair religious privilege. She had recently notched a victory in opposing a plan to install a sign proclaiming "In God We Trust" on city property in her hometown of Ballwin.

After Doe went from abortion charity case to the Temple's chosen plaintiff, Moungo took on the role of handler.

"I know what it's like to be a single mother in Missouri with low income," Moungo says today. "Her predicament is pretty common; I've been in that situation. I know what it's like to get an abortion in Missouri."

The assignment became something close to a full-time job, with Moungo serving as mom, advocate and arbitrator. Doe didn't have a stable living situation, and she was raising a young daughter while living in a hotel, its price discounted for the cleaning services she provided. Other times, she wound up at Moungo's home in Ballwin. Moungo felt largely on her own as Doe's support group.

"She was getting frustrated and wanted answers from me, answers I couldn't get my hands on," Moungo recalls. "We were both feeling shut out."

It wasn't just the lack of updates from Greaves or the New Jersey law firm hired by the Temple to handle the lawsuits. The case had made a huge media splash, but Moungo says the national board repeatedly blocked her attempts to organize local rallies around it.

To Moungo, it became clear the campaign was a "Temple effort, not a Missouri effort."

"You're separating the action and the people who are affected by the laws, and it really didn't make any sense to me," she says. "It became really weird to us, seeing other chapters in other states promoting our reproductive rights cases without knowing really our laws or being able to address those matters with knowledge."

In a recent interview, Doe describes feeling similarly frustrated by the Temple's publicity strategy. She was hoping to see a wave of local support, an acknowledgement that the front lines of this battle had been drawn in Missouri. Her suggestions led nowhere, and she bristled as the Temple's reproductive rights campaign turned to gross-out performance art.

Two months after Doe's lawsuit was filed, the Temple's Detroit chapter produced an eye-catchingly occult counter-protest outside a Planned Parenthood location in Michigan. Religious groups surrounded the clinic, some carrying signs amplifying the myth that the clinic "harvests baby parts." Satanists portrayed priests, who reverently doused two kneeling actresses with milk. Another member held a sign stating, "AMERICA IS NOT A THEOCRACY. END FORCED MOTHERHOOD."

Doe says she felt shamed by the suggestion that she'd been nearly "forced" into motherhood. She also wondered what kind of message the protest had sent to possible allies.

Over time, she stewed on the unfairness of the Temple's overall strategy, perceiving that Detroit's shock theater had been chosen over her own suggestions.

"I thought it was a giant mockery," Doe says. "Maybe it was trolling, maybe they thought they were doing something effective. I didn't appreciate it whatsoever. That's not how I wanted to be represented, it's not how women in those circumstances should be represented."

Moungo, too, was increasingly embittered by the national board members' refusal to grant any sort of Missouri demonstration in support of Doe's lawsuit. Moungo proposed a public demonstration in Jefferson City with supporters wearing "I am Mary" T-shirts, but a Temple lawyer suggested that Missouri Satanists merely wear the shirts to a legal hearing.

Despite the early headlines around its fundraiser for Doe's abortion, the Temple now seemed intent on keeping its activities in Missouri low profile. Moungo, who felt responsible for the well-being of the Temple's plaintiff, felt a distinct lack of concern from Temple brass.

"It got to the point where I didn't feel like they cared about her or what was really going on here in Missouri. It was like Temple wanted the case without the plaintiff."

Nikki Moungo no longer sees the Satanic Temple as "reproductive heroes." - DANNY WICENTOWSKI
Nikki Moungo no longer sees the Satanic Temple as "reproductive heroes."

While the Temple's key plaintiff was stewing in discontent, its hired attorney was grappling with a legal problem. In December 2015, a Cole County judge dismissed the Temple's case, ruling that it had not shown that Missouri violated Doe's rights under the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA.

Adopted in 2003, the law prohibits the state from restricting "a person's free exercise of religion," defined as "an act or refusal to act that is substantially motivated by religious belief, whether or not the religious exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief."

Temple's attorney James MacNaughton had focused his argument on the informed consent pamphlet handed to patients, which defines the life of a fetus as "a separate, unique, living human." That position is not based in science, MacNaughton says.

"It is a state-approved doctrine for when a human life comes into existence, which is fundamentally a religious principle," the attorney argues. "It's preaching that tenet in the waiting rooms of Planned Parenthood."

But the question of when life begins was never argued before the Missouri courts. Instead the Temple was forced to argue about RFRA's definition of "an act," which, according to the state's attorneys, proved that Doe's rights were intact.

That's because Doe wasn't technically required to read the pamphlet, only to have the opportunity to do so. Similarly, the state argued, Doe wasn't required to view the sonogram or listen to her baby's heartbeat, only to be given the "opportunity."

In a motion to dismiss, the attorney general's office cited Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the very U.S. Supreme Court decision that the Satanic Temple had bragged about using as leverage.

Missouri's argument went like this: In Hobby Lobby, federal law had tried to force a corporation with religious shareholders to buy contraceptive coverage for employees, an "act prohibited by their beliefs." But no one was forcing Doe into a similar "act" on which to judge her claims. After all, no Satanic tenet prohibits members from having an "opportunity" to view a sonogram. Same with the "opportunity" to read (or not read) a pamphlet. Nor is there a Satanic tenet specifying that abortions must occur in under 72 hours.

Seven months after the Temple filed its suit, Cole County Circuit Court Judge Jon Beetem agreed with the state's motion to dismiss, writing that Doe had "fail[ed] to allege facts which if true, state a claim for relief under the RFRA."

The Temple vowed to file an amended lawsuit in state court. It already had a second lawsuit underway in federal court, again with Mary Doe at its center: It alleged that Missouri's laws unconstitutionally privileged Christian beliefs about life and abortion over those of Satanists like Doe.

The federal case was filed a month after Doe's abortion. Crucially, that meant the plaintiff was no longer pregnant. MacNaughton had to prove Doe nevertheless had standing, and so he argued that she had in fact suffered "stigmatic injury" when she was presented with the religious-based "opportunities" at the Planned Parenthood clinic.

"Those injuries did not go away after she had her abortion," MacNaughton explains now, though he also concedes that the scenario weakened his legal arsenal.

"That was a different argument than the liberty rights and privacy rights that underlie Roe v. Wade," he explains, "since those rights disappear once you have the abortion."

In April, a crowd rallied at Planned Parenthood in St. Louis in support of abortion rights. - DANNY WICENTOWSKI
In April, a crowd rallied at Planned Parenthood in St. Louis in support of abortion rights.

More than four decades separate Mary Doe from Jane Roe, whose attempts at obtaining an abortion led to the Roe v. Wade decision.

Like Doe in 2015, Roe had found herself with limited options in 1969 Texas. Pregnant with her third child at 21, she was willing to try almost anything. She went to the police claiming she'd been raped, hoping Texas law would provide an exception, but she was turned away for lack of evidence. She tried an illegal abortion clinic, but the building had been raided by police.

Like Doe, Roe was eventually referred to a pair of attorneys seeking a plaintiff to help them challenge state laws that criminalized abortion.

After the Supreme Court overturned those laws in 1973, Jane Roe outed herself as Norma McCorvey. But two decades later, her legacy would turn dramatically when she became a pro-life Christian. Until her death in 2017, McCorvey worked to undo the precedent set in her name. She was often quoted describing herself as a "pawn" in the schemes of her pro-abortion lawyers.

For Doe, the problem wasn't a change of belief in the Temple's tenets. In the summer of 2016, Mary Doe still believed she was doing the right thing. Still, she too felt very much like a pawn.

"I wasn't being represented in the way I'd hoped," she says.

Doe claims that she emailed Greaves and MacNaughton that summer to notify them she wanted out of the case. The email triggered a phone call from a furious Greaves.

"Lucien just completely lost his temper," Doe recalls. "He was just screaming, he was talking fast, I couldn't get a word in edgewise. After he hung up, I tried to call him back a couple times, but it didn't work. So I just blocked his number."

Even though Doe had already given a deposition for the Temple's lawsuit in Cole County, the shouting match with Greaves had pushed her to the edge. It was MacNaughton's turn to plead for peace. He deployed what she now describes as "a major guilt trip," begging her not to damage his reputation by leaving the high-profile case.

MacNaughton disputes Doe's version of that conversation; he is adamant that she never made a formal demand to leave the case in 2016. (In general, attorneys are ethically bound to follow client's instructions for representation. A lawyer refusing a client's request to leave a case could risk disbarment.)

"That she was being coerced or bulldozed, that absolutely wasn't the case," MacNaughton says now. "My view was that I have a client, I'm representing her interests in the lawsuit, and it would make it easier for me to do that job if she didn't squabble."

MacNaughton's solution was an unusual one. In a letter sent to Doe dated July 5, 2016, MacNaughton proposed what amounted to gag order of his own client, with financial repercussions if she tried to meddle in the case.

As long as MacNaughton remained her attorney, the agreement stipulated that Doe "have no intentional contact with any member of the Satanic Temple" — which would include Nikki Moungo — and that MacNaughton retain "sole authority to make or authorize publicity" for the case.

There was another provision. If Doe tried to fire MacNaughton on her own, for any reason but "incompetence," the agreement made her liable for a $1,500 termination fee.

The agreement/gag letter sent by MacNaughton represented the last piece of direct communication between Doe and the Temple for nearly two years. After that, Doe says, "I got updates on the case through Google alerts."

It wasn't ideal for the Temple, either. In an interview, MacNaughton says the feud between Greaves and Doe threatened to derail the case with "a lot of ego." Still, MacNaughton maintains that his phone call with Doe ended with her "total agreement" in the conditions of the letter and her continued role as plaintiff. He says he's baffled by Doe's claims to the contrary.

"She had the opportunity to drop this case in 2016 when we talked about it," MacNaughton says. "If she truly felt coerced, that's news to me. I never got that sense from her."

The Satanic Temple made headlines by insisting "Baphomet" should be displayed along with the Ten Commandments. - FLICKR/MARK NOZELL
The Satanic Temple made headlines by insisting "Baphomet" should be displayed along with the Ten Commandments.

For the next two years, Doe's lawsuits sputtered along through the appeals courts. Dismissing the federal lawsuit in August 2016, the district judge ruled that Doe lacked standing, as she "is not now pregnant," and "there is no guarantee that she will become pregnant in the future." MacNaughton pressed on.

But in 2017, with the Satanic lawsuits all but forgotten, something extremely rare happened in Missouri: Its abortion access expanded.

The previous summer, a different federal judge, Howard Sachs, had dropped a bomb on some of the state's medically dubious requirements for abortion clinics. Sachs wrote, "The abortion rights of Missouri women, guaranteed by constitutional rulings, are being denied on a daily basis, in irreparable fashion."

This had nothing to do with the Satanic Temple. Sachs' broadside was based on the 2016 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, in which the justices found that Texas had enacted medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion providers, effectively closing clinics and reducing access to health care.

Sachs' ruling had an immediate effect. Clinics in Kansas City and Columbia, which had long ago lost their abortion licenses, were suddenly able to serve patients again. For the first time, clinics in Joplin and Springfield made plans to offer medication-assisted abortions.

The Satanic Temple managed to clatter into the story. A widely shared article declared confidently, and wrongly, that Missouri's flash-renaissance of abortion access was "thanks to Planned Parenthood and Satanists." (Breitbart carried the error into the realm of fantasy, suggesting Planned Parenthood was "teaming up" with the worshipers of the child-sacrifice-demanding Moloch.)

In reality, the Temple's lawsuits were irrelevant, though the Satanists did their best to spin to the contrary.

Notably, after the Missouri Supreme Court heard the Temple's appeal in January 2018, the Temple released a statement touting an "unprecedented triumph for the Satanic Temple," a curious claim given that the alleged "triumph" amounted to Missouri's Solicitor General John Sauer admitting that an abortion patient "is entitled to decline" an ultrasound procedure – a point the state had already acknowledged in its 2015 motion to dismiss Doe's lawsuit.

It was an example of the Temple clumsily stretching for some positive public attention. Nikki Moungo, who left the Temple in 2017, says she wasn't surprised by the attempt to create the appearance of victory.

"This was no great epic moment where the Satanic Temple held someone's feet to the fire," Moungo says scornfully. "They called this little clusterfuck a win. I haven't received any benefit from them not knowing the ultrasound law."

And in Missouri, any win for abortion rights tends to be short-lived. And so it was in 2018, when a federal court undid the ruling that had allowed Missourians to live, briefly, in a state with more than one abortion provider.

With a ruling by the Eighth District Court of Appeals, the window of expanded abortion access slammed shut. Once again, Missouri mandated that its abortion doctors obtain hospital admitting privileges. In Columbia's Planned Parenthood clinic, patients were told that they'd have to reschedule and drive to St. Louis. Clinics in Joplin and Springfield scrapped plans to offer medical abortions. Less than a year after Sachs' ruling seemed to herald a major expansion, Missouri was back to a single abortion provider.

In some alternate version of events, this would have been the perfect moment for the Satanic Temple to ride in to the rescue. What could be more unprecedented, more triumphant, than someone like Mary Doe forcing the state to reckon with empowered Satanists?

But by February 2019, Doe had lost faith in the Temple. That month, she emailed MacNaughton, making contact for the first time since accepting the gag agreement in 2016. She wrote to serve notice "of my wish to withdraw from the case." Once again, the Temple and MacNaughton were faced with the alarming possibility that their client wanted to destroy their lengthy and expensive lawsuit.

This time, MacNaughton does not dispute that Doe emailed him with a direct request to leave the case. However, he says his first attempts to respond by email and phone where unsuccessful.

It didn't matter. Days after Doe's email arrived in MacNaughton's inbox, the Missouri Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the lower court's decision to dismiss the case — again without ever addressing the core question of whether Missouri abortion laws infringed on Doe's Satanic beliefs.

It was over. And Mary Doe wasted no time going public.

At the Hope Clinic For Women in Granite City, Illinois, Dr. Erin King says she's seeing more and more Missouri patients. - DANNY WICENTOWSKI
At the Hope Clinic For Women in Granite City, Illinois, Dr. Erin King says she's seeing more and more Missouri patients.

Four months prior to emailing MacNaughton to quit the case, Doe had reached out to Nikki Moungo, breaking the years of silence that began with the gag agreement. Moungo was no longer with the Satanic Temple — she'd had her own bitter dispute with the national council, which removed her from its ranks and dissolved the St. Louis chapter in 2017. She'd subsequently founded the Ordo Sororitatis Satanicae, a women-focused Satanist group.

Doe, who was living in a women's shelter in St. Louis, wanted to air her thoughts. And on the night the Supreme Court dismissed the case, they appeared in a blog post structured as a Q&A.

The blog was titled, "Mary Doe Speaks," but it seemed more like a scream than mere speech when it came to the Temple and its spokesman.

Unlike Roe's McCorvey, Doe still believed in the overall cause. In the Q&A, she described the feeling of relief around her abortion. She felt "no loss," only appreciation for the fact that not being pregnant was the best thing she could do to care for her current child.

Yet Doe uncorked her frustration with the Temple spokesman, accusing the Temple of only offering assistance "when it was lucrative for them." The post also included a redacted, unsigned copy of the gag agreement MacNaughton had sent Doe in 2016. She claimed the Temple had "banished" her after her dispute with Greaves.

"They are out to make a name and nothing else," she charged. "They didn't care about me, I was a cash cow to them."

One week later, Greaves published a manifesto-length response to his personal blog. Titled "The Savage Saga of Mary Doe," the nearly 5,000-word chronicle of grievances described Doe as unstable and abusive, "an unmanageable plaintiff" who attempted to manipulate the Temple members trying to help her. Doe, he wrote, had used the threat of dropping out of the case to hold them as hostages to her demands.

During the first year of litigation, Greaves claimed, Doe had called and texted him late at night, "apparently while inebriated, threatening to pull out of the case if I did not speak to her, and hurling bizarre accusations at me."

In Greaves' telling, Doe's "vague incessant threats" to abandon the case became overwhelming, and he was certain she was about to start requesting more money (even though, he acknowledges, "that demand never arrived.") Her unmanageable behavior, Greaves charged, led MacNaughton to employ a gag order.

In a recent interview, Greaves says Doe's accusation that his group had pursued her case as a "cash cow" was particularly galling.

"We lost so much money in this litigation, with so little to show for it, with the kind of facile dismissals we had," he says. "We did this with no hope of getting anything out of it but to help reproductive rights."

A waiting room at an Illinois abortion clinic. In Missouri, patients must wait 72 hours between consultation and procedure. - DANNY WICENTOWSKI
A waiting room at an Illinois abortion clinic. In Missouri, patients must wait 72 hours between consultation and procedure.

If there's a single image that clarifies Missouri's position on reproductive rights, it's the billboard that faces motorists leaving the state just east of St. Louis, the one that says, "Welcome to Illinois, where you can get a safe, legal abortion."

Inside the Hope Clinic in Granite City, Illinois, Dr. Erin King leads an impromptu tour through the hallways and waiting rooms. Every door is restricted by keycard and capable of locking down in an instant. King notes that the clinic's previous location had been the target of firebombs.

More than half of King's patients come from Missouri, and King suspects that the trend will only grow more pronounced. Last year, after a new Missouri law required women to undergo a pelvic exam before receiving a medical abortion, Planned Parenthood in St. Louis began referring patients to Illinois, where prescribing a pill doesn't require doctors to probe a patient's vagina.

Even now, King says she still hears from former Missouri patients who struggle to grasp that it is not Planned Parenthood enforcing a 72-hour waiting period, but rather their own state government. In the Hope Clinic, the entire procedure, from intake to surgery to exit, takes a single afternoon.

"Everyone has an ultrasound," King explains, taking the tour past the exam room. The procedure is used to determine a precise gestational age; no one is forcing Illinois doctors to talk to patients about fetal heartbeat or when the collection of cells becomes a unique human being.

King comes to a room marked as a counselor's office. "Everyone has a meeting here. We do call it 'counseling,' but it's really just education and informed consent," she says. "Everyone gets seen alone so make sure they're here of their own free will and not being coerced."

The clinic couldn't be more different than the one in Missouri, where lawmakers have seen that ultrasounds and the concept of "informed consent" take on very different meanings. In Missouri's Republican-dominated General Assembly, most lawmakers appear hopeful that the Supreme Court will soon overturn Roe v. Wade, freeing them to ban abortion. Missouri Republicans have even filed a bill to enact an abortion "trigger ban" — if it's passed, the minute Roe is repealed, the vast majority of abortions would immediately become illegal in Missouri, without exclusions for rape or incest.

Even if Roe stands, another provision of the bill would bar abortions after detection of a fetal heartbeat, which can occur as early as six weeks into pregnancy — before many women even know they are pregnant.

The bill has drawn opposition from Democrats and abortion activists, who say it could make Missouri the most restrictive state in the country for abortion access. But the pro-choice crowd is badly outnumbered in the state capitol, and while they argue that science is on their side, Missouri lawmakers are happy to cite divine inspiration instead. The GOP bill even begins with a sort of preamble, declaring that the law's provisions are made "in recognition that God is the author of life."

That bill seems ripe for challenge by the Satanic Temple, and while Mary Doe's case has ended, the Satanists' ambitions have not. Nikki Moungo hopes to build her own group into a source of political influence. And the Satanic Temple — recently awarded tax-exempt status as a religion by the IRS — has its own plans.

In March 2018, MacNaughton filed a new lawsuit in federal court, this time on behalf of "Judy Doe," a pregnant Missouri woman who alleges Missouri is violating her Satanic belief in bodily autonomy.

A federal court dismissed the case, but the Temple has filed an appeal. There may be more years of litigation.

And those, too, may prove a high-wire act. During an interview with MacNaughton, RFT inquired about scheduling an interview with Judy Doe, and whether she would speak about her experience with Missouri abortion laws.

The Temple's attorney offered an immediate, one-word response: "No."