'Cum Rags for Congress': Satanists Protest Texas Abortion Law with Semen Socks

In response to Texas' absurd fetus funeral rule, an activist from the Satanic Temple is encouraging people to send items coated in semen (or semen-like substances) to Governor Greg Abbott.

|
Dec 2 2016, 9:05pm

Photo by Victor Deschamps via Stocksy

Earlier this week, Texas officials finalized a set of rules requiring funeral services for fetuses in what many see as a transparent and particularly callous ploy to restrict abortion access in the state. In response, Satanic Temple spokesperson Jex Blackmore has announced plans to engage in a crass counter-attack.

Having mailed a ejaculate-covered sock to Texas Governor Greg Abbott, along with a handwritten note that says, "These r babies. Plz bury," Blackmore is publicly encouraging others to send Governor Abbott semen-encrusted materials of their own (or, for those wary of sending bodily fluids through the mail, items coated in non-seminal-but-semen-esque substances).

Watch now: Devil's Advocates: The Satanic Temple's Fight to Protect Your Abortion Rights

According to Blackmore, this campaign, which is evocatively titled "Cumrags for Congress," is meant to expose the absurdity of forcing people to treat fetal tissue as human remains. (Lucien Greaves, another spokesperson for the organization, tells Broadly that the campaign isn't officially endorsed or encouraged by the Satanic Temple.) "The concept of the state mandating a non-medical ritual as part of the abortion procedure is offensive and crude, essentially demanding that all citizens adopt the moral, philosophical opinion that fetal tissue is comparable to a living human," she tells Broadly. "Fetal tissue has the 'potential' to become a human, but is not a human yet, does not have consciousness, and cannot exist without the mother host." She points out that semen and ova have the potential to become human life, yet "we do not mourn every ejaculation."

When asked to elaborate on the symbolic significance of the action, Blackmore responds, "It's crass, humiliating, disgusting, a waste of resources, and absurd, just like this regulation."

Blackmore acknowledges that the mailing of cum rags resides in a legal grey area. "My understanding is that so long as the bodily fluid is not sent with the intent to injure or kill, and is sent is a very small amount in a 'leak proof container,' in a box clearly marked as containing fluid, then it's okay," she says. "At least, that's what the woman at the USPS office said when I contacted them." She's not a lawyer, she adds, so anyone sending semen through the US Postal Service will be doing so at their own risk; for those unwilling to do so, Blackmore suggests utilizing "food coloring, gooey lotions, and shampoos," which retain the verisimilitude of semen without the accompanying legal uncertainties.

It's crass, humiliating, disgusting, a waste of resources, and absurd, just like this regulation.

Texas' fetal burial rules are part of a new wave of anti-abortion legislation targeting the disposal of fetal tissue. According to the conservative legislators who support such laws, they're meant to protect public health—but multiple major medical organizations, including the Texas Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, disagree. "This regulation has no basis in public health, and it's just a pretext for putting an additional burden on women who choose abortion or who suffer miscarriage," David Brown, a senior staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, told Broadly earlier this week.

Requiring abortion providers to arrange for fetus funerals puts them in a deeply confusing and frustrating position. Several reproductive rights organizations I've spoken to since the rule was first proposed have told me that no one is really sure how they'd even be implemented: Will providers have to enter into relations with funeral homes? How will they shoulder the additional expense of burial and cremation services (which could cost around $2000, according to an estimate from director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Texas)? How does one even bury or cremate an embryo that's only a few inches in length? Despite the ambiguities in the rules, providers who cannot comply with it may have to shut their doors, and those that are able to remain open fear that the additional costs will be passed onto their patients, making safe and legal abortion a financial impossibility for low-income women.

Over the past few years, the Satanic Temple has actively fought abortion restrictions throughout the country. The organization, which bills itself as an atheistic religion, is known for combating erosions in the divide between church and state through a combination of performance art, parody, and direct legal action. To them, anti-abortion laws are an extension of an explicitly—and unconstitutionally—Christian agenda, one that violates their own religious beliefs as Satanists.

"Texas health officials are baldly imposing the view that the fetal tissue is elevated to personhood—a religious opinion that conflicts with our own," said Satanic Temple founder Lucien Greaves in a statement. The rest of the Temple is opposing the rule in its own way, offering Texas-based members the opportunity to claim a religious exemption from complying with the law. "If Texas is going to treat the disposal of fetal tissue differently from the disposal of any other biological material... they need to present a compelling state interest for doing so. Of course, there is no such state interest, and its perfectly clear the demand for fetal tissue burial is a punitive measure imposed by sadistic theocrats," he added.