It was a showdown that can only be described as biblical: The Satanic Temple of Detroit versus the Pro-Life Action League outside of a Planned Parenthood clinic on Good Friday.
Led by Detroit chapter director Jex Blackmore, who made headlines last December for blogging about her experience with medical abortion, members of the Satanic Temple traveled to Planned Parenthood’s Ann Arbor, Michigan location to counter-protest the anti-abortion group.
In images from the protest, Blackmore can be seen wearing a crown of thorns and a faux pregnancy belly while carrying a cross meant to symbolize “the burden of oppressive mandates endured by women,” as the Satanic Temple noted in a press release.
The Satanists marched in front of a small crowd of anti-abortion protesters, including a priest, standing next to a sign that said, “We Are Praying For You and Your Baby.”
Blackmore told The Daily Beast that the protest was meant to refute the parallels that Pro-Life Action League (PLAL) was trying to draw between the crucifixion and abortion.
“In the current abortion debate, she said, “it’s not the fetus, nor the church that suffers—but women who bear the greatest burden.”
PLAL was there to perform one of its annual “Way of the Cross for Victims of Abortion” protests, which are held at dozens of clinics around the country to mark the Christian religious holiday.
“On a bleak Friday afternoon nearly 2,000 years ago, our savior Jesus Christ was crucified at Golgotha, ‘the place of the skull,’” PLAL’s official announcement read. “Today, we have our own Golgotha: the abortion clinic, where His image is violently destroyed, again and again, by abortion.”
Billed as a “vigil,” PLAL protesters typically kneel outside abortion clinics at these events and pray for “victims” of abortion, moving through 12 stations of the cross.
In response, the Satanic Temple’s “Sanctions of the Cross” procession was intended to protest Michigan legislators who have sponsored anti-abortion bills like SB 573, which would require abortion providers to become licensed as surgical outpatient facilities, and SB 575, which would cut funding to health-care providers that offer abortion.
“The Satanic Temple believes that all people are entitled to make informed decisions about their health, family and future without coercion,” the group announced in its press release. “The philosophical and religious opinions of some should not be used to legislate morality.”
At the counter-protest, Satanic Temple members walked behind the cross-bearing Blackmore wearing suits bearing the names of the Michigan legislators who sponsored the recent anti-abortion bills. Behind them, an activist wore a leather jacket emblazoned with a middle finger and held up a grayscale American flag.
The Satanic Temple—especially the Detroit Chapter—has a history of counter-protesting religious displays and anti-abortion protests. In 2014, for example, they displayed a “Snaketivity” on the lawn of the Michigan Capitol building in response to the nativity scene being permitted on government property.
In 2015, they counter-protested anti-abortion Planned Parenthood picketers in Ferndale with a theatrical display in which men dressed as priests poured milk over bound women kneeling in front of the clinic, resulting in the extraordinary Michigan Live headline: “Detroit-area Satanists doused with milk at Planned Parenthood protest.”
“America is not a theocracy,” one of their protest signs at that event read. “End forced motherhood.”
Blackmore told The Daily Beast last year that abortion restrictions fundamentally contradict the “deeply-held beliefs” of the Satanic Temple.
“The Satanic Temple believes that the body is inviolable, subject to our will alone,” she said. “We consider theocratic reproductive mandates an attempt to control and degrade the individual.”
Last May, the Satanic Temple sent that belief to court. The religious organization filed state and federal lawsuits over Missouri’s mandatory 72-hour pre-abortion waiting period, which is one of the longest in the country. Their legal argument, as Vice reported, borrowed heavily from the Hobby Lobby decision by claiming that they should be permitted to claim a religious exemption from the abortion restriction. The move sparked outrage among anti-abortion activists.
“It seems to me we all knew which side of the abortion debate Satan was rooting for,” seethed Matthew Archbold of the National Catholic Register. “I just didn’t think it would take him this long to find a lawyer.”
But as the Satanic Temple’s Good Friday protest proves, the group is unafraid to make a statement about abortion, even on a Catholic Holy Day. PLAL did not immediately respond to request for comment regarding the Satanists who crashed their protest.