By: April Carson
The 150-year-old chastity law has been a contentious issue, to say the least. Opponents of abortion view it as an infringement on their religious beliefs, while those in support of access to reproductive care see it as an outdated law that should be abolished altogether. Throughout the years, several court cases have been brought up challenging the law, but none have been successful.
The banning of contraceptives, lewd materials, and abortion-inducing drugs through the mail, which was made into law 150 years ago, could be a means of completely banning abortion throughout the country, including in states where it is currently legal. This has caused a deep divide between pro-life and pro-choice activists, as some groups argue that this is the only way to completely end abortion nationwide.
Last summer, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and removed constitutional protections that ensured abortion rights throughout the country. This ruling was presented by the conservative majority as a means of giving authority over abortion policy-making to elected leaders, particularly in state legislatures. In light of this ruling, the 150-year-old chastity law has become a battleground for the fight over abortion rights. Proponents of the law contend that it would provide an effective legal framework to completely ban abortion nationwide.
The current dispute surrounding the Comstock Act, a federal law from the Reconstruction era, demonstrates how the abortion landscape has become more intricate post-Roe v. Wade. Anti-abortion advocates are now contesting the use of certain abortion methods, such as the drug mifepristone, in legal battles.
Anti-abortion activists' arguments under the Comstock Act could severely limit access to medication abortions, which are the majority of abortions in the US. The act could also restrict the shipment of medical instruments and supplies needed for surgical abortions, potentially leading to their elimination.
According to Greer Donley, an expert in abortion law at the University of Pittsburgh Law School, the implementation of Comstock could potentially restrict access to abortion throughout the entire country.
A legal battle is emerging over the extent of the law and how it can be utilized. This issue has gained attention from both state and local authorities. However, the ultimate objective is for a Republican-led federal government that is prepared and authorized to use the law in a manner that could prevent abortion providers from functioning.
Abortion opponents are hoping that they will win the ongoing legal battles regarding the proxy statute's interpretation. If they do win, the enforcement of the law could become a significant topic in the 2024 White House race and congressional campaigns. This is because federal lawmakers can repeal the law.
In 1873, the Comstock Act was named after Anthony Comstock, a special agent of the US Postal Service and a crusader against vices.
Critics of the law argue that it discriminates against women. They note that when the law was enacted, women did not have the right to vote and the Supreme Court had not yet interpreted the Constitutional Equal Protection Clause to forbid sex discrimination.
The law prohibits sending items that are specifically created or modified to cause an abortion or used for indecent purposes. The law also specifically bans drugs, medications, articles, or items that are intended to induce an abortion.
Opponents of the law assert that it has been used to restrict access to vital medical care, such as contraception and abortion services. They argue that women should have the right to make their own decisions about their bodies and reproductive health care without interference from the government or outside forces.
Although the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade decision protected abortion rights nationwide, anti-abortion activists argue that the statute's section regarding abortion-inducing drugs is still valid even though it was not enforced due to the precedent. The conservative majority of the Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision last June.
This fight over abortion, however, has its roots in a 150-year-old law known as the Comstock Law. The 1873 federal statute made it illegal to deliver or transport “obscene material” such as contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs.
According to Roger Severino, the vice president of domestic policy at the conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, and former civil rights lawyer at the Department of Health and Human Services under the Trump administration, with Roe gone, the law is revived.
He said, “The Supreme Court has cleared the path to let states decide what they think is appropriate. The Comstock Law lets them go further than Roe ever would have in terms of limiting abortion.”
By overturning Roe v. Wade and allowing some states to ban abortion entirely, the Comstock Law has been given new life.
Some anti-abortion lawyers are currently discussing the legal implications of mailing abortion drugs. However, certain individuals who are against abortion are interpreting the law in a way that would also prohibit the shipment of medical tools and instruments that are used in surgical abortions to clinics and facilities through the mail under the Comstock Act.
The implications of this are far-reaching as it would prevent doctors from delivering the drugs and medical supplies that are necessary for these procedures. Not only is this a violation of reproductive rights, but it could have serious consequences for women's health, especially in those states where abortion is illegal and medical care is limited.
This interpretation of the Comstock Act also threatens to further restrict access to abortion in states like Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, which have all passed laws that would ban abortions if Roe v. Wade were overturned.
The fight is now about access to safe and legal abortions, reproductive justice, and women's autonomy over their bodies. As such, we must continue to advocate for policies that uphold these rights and ensure that all people have access to comprehensive health care services, including abortion.
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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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