Democrat Senator Introduces Bill to Repeal Abortion Pill Mail Ban

( – A Democrat senator has launched a new bid to overturn a 19th-century law that’s been interpreted as banning sending abortion pills by mail. The 1873 Comstock Act bans sending obscene materials by mail. Some conservatives believe it outlaws the shipment of abortion-inducing drugs.

Senator Wants To Defang Law

The Comstock Act has a long official title but is almost always known by the name of 19th-century United States Postal Inspector Anthony Comstock. Comstock was also a prominent anti-vice activist who opposed –- among many other things –- obscene publications, gambling, patent medicines, and abortion. His big achievement was in promoting a federal law to prevent all the things he disliked from being sent through the mail. Although the Comstock Act, motivated by Victorian morality, started to fade from use through the second half of last century, it’s recently seen a comeback as a useful legal tool against child pornography.

The Comstock Act doesn’t just cover pornography, though. Among the many things it bans from the mail is “Every article or thing designed, adapted, or intended for producing abortion.” That obviously includes drugs like mifepristone. Many conservatives see the Act as a way to help enforce stricter state abortion bans brought in after the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v Wade.

Since the June 2022 defeat of Roe v Wade, Democrats have been working to find ways around state abortion laws –- and they recognize that the Comstock Act is a problem for them. Last January, the Biden administration’s Justice Department announced that “every article of thing… intended for producing abortion” didn’t include pills specifically made to produce abortion. Legally, that isn’t a very convincing argument. Now, Democratic lawmakers are trying to end the debate by amending the Comstock Act itself.

This wouldn’t be the first time the Act has been changed; in 1971, Congress removed a ban on mailing contraceptives. Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) is now trying to do the same with the Act’s references to abortion. On June 24, she introduced the Stop Comstock Act, which her press release describes as “a bill to repeal an outdated 1873 law, called the Comstock Act.”

In fact, it wouldn’t repeal the Act; it would just amend it to remove references to abortion, leaving the rest of Comstock in place to be used against child pornographers. As well as Smith’s Senate bill, which is being co-sponsored by 18 other left-wing senators, Representative Becca Balint (D-VT) has brought in a companion bill in the House. However, with Republicans holding a narrow House majority, the Comstock Act is likely to survive this challenge.

~Here’s to Our Liberty!

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