A group of protesters dressed mostly in black gathered on the south steps of the Capitol on Saturday to make a statement about abortion laws in Utah. They were members of the Satanic Temple, demanding that Utah doesn’t turn into Texas on reproductive rights.
Demonstrators sported pentagram T-shirts and tattoos, Handmaid’s Tale-inspired outfits and horns. But, on the signs they held, Satan was rarely mentioned.
“Keeping the separation from church and state is very important,” said Melissa Weber, a 32-year-old member of the Satanic Temple, “so if churches are going to come in and tell us what we can do with our bodies, we’ll make our own rights and our church and how we do with our bodies.” She held a poster that read, “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries.”
The Satanic Temple is a nontheistic religion that sees Satan as a symbol of “eternal rebel[lion] against tyranny,” instead of a god, said Thomasin Rite, a spokesperson for the congregation.
“We are asking for the state of Utah, as well as the United States, to understand that just because one group of people believes that abortion is wrong, does not mean that [the state] has any constitutional right to excuse that right from anybody else,” Rite said.
Satanists believe that exemptions tied to religious freedom in Utah should apply to all, not just The Church of Latter-day Saints, the temple said in an email. The Satanic Temple says it is demanding the abortion pills Mifepristone and Misoprostol to be available to its members via the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Texas, where abortion pills are banned after the sixth week of pregnancy.
“Bodily autonomy is one of our deeply held religious beliefs.” Rite said, “It is one of our tenets; one’s body is inviolable subject to one’s own will alone. And one huge part of that is reproductive rights. We believe that anyone with the uterus has the absolute right to choose what they do with it.”
“I think all the states are trying to change it to the six-week law like Texas did,” said Christy Moore, a stay-at-home mom, while wearing an all-black long dress with a cape and a bonnet, “and that scares me because it’s taking away the rights that women have with their bodies.”
Another group organized by Pro-Life Utah was also at the Capitol, waving yellow flags with the word “life” on them. At one point, some anti-abortion protesters moved up the Capitol steps to interrupt speeches by members of the Satanic Temple, who occasionally shouted “Hail Satan!”
Both demonstrations remained peaceful.
“It makes me sad. Because I believe that life begins at conception,” Mary Gefford, an anti-abortion protester, said. “And so I don’t believe that abortion is health care because it kills the life. And so I find it sad that people celebrate that.”