The Comstock Act is actually a vice law from the 19th century. Its objective was to prohibit the mailing of any substance, medicine, drug or thing that could promote abortion or any “lewd” writing. The law has become a critical issue in a new court ruling that threatens access to a popular abortion drug in the United States.
The Comstock Act has lain dormant for the past 50 years, but it has now been successfully introduced by some conservative states and some anti-abortion groups seeking to ban the mailing of a pill called mifepristone. The pill has been used in approximately more than half of abortion cases in the United States.
A federal judge in the US state of Texas showed his support for Christian conservatives by stating that the Comstock Act prohibits the mailing of the drug in question.
Mathew J. Kacsmaryk, a US district judge, ruled in a recent case that the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the drug mifepristone about twenty years ago violated federal regulations. The judge said the Food and Drug Administration failed to raise “legitimate safety concerns” with the pill. The pill has been available since 2000.
As a result, mifepristone’s leading drugmaker and the Biden administration filed notices of appeal just hours after the decision.
An order from a Washington state judge and the Texas ruling came simultaneously. The order stated that in Democratic-led states that filed their own lawsuit, the FDA must maintain access to the drug.
Kacsmaryk, a former lawyer for the First Liberty Institute, used the terminology of anti-abortion advocates throughout his opinion. He referred to doctors who prescribed mifepristone with terms such as abortionists. Additionally, he used terms such as medical abortions as “chemical abortions” and fetuses as “unborn humans.”
If the ruling is upheld, Kacsmaryk’s 67-page decision would dismantle recent FDA changes designed to facilitate access to mifepristone.
The Comstock Law
The Comstock Act was originally passed in 1873. The law was named after a crusader against vice. The intent of the law was to ban the mailing of contraceptives, as well as stop “lewd” writings and any other “instrument, drug, substance, medication, or anything else” that could be used in an abortion.
Congress and the federal courts have continually narrowed the scope of the law. They removed reference to contraceptives in the 1970s. The federal government has not emphasized the law since the 1930s, according to legal experts.