Anti-abortion groups are looking for new ways to wage their battle against abortion rights, eyeing the potential implications of a 150-year-old law, the Comstock Act, that could effectively lead to a nationwide abortion ban. Congress passed the Comstock Act in 1873, making it a crime to mail or ship any “lewd, lascivious, indecent, filthy or vile article” and anything that “is advertised or described in a manner … for producing abortion.” There are now legal cases questioning the Food and Drug Administration’s regulation of mifepristone, one of the two drugs used in the standard regimen for medication abortion. If courts find that the FDA has the authority to approve mifepristone for abortion, the Comstock Act could still prevent the pill’s distribution. As scholars of law and reproductive justice, we have been analyzing potential strategies to use this Victorian-era law to restrict the ability to get an abortion in the U.S.
Sonia Suter & Naomi R. Cahn, An obscure 1800s law is shaping up to be the center of the next abortion battle – legal scholars explain what’s behind the Victorian-era Comstock Act, The Conversation (May 12, 2023).