Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

Democrats target 150-year-old ‘zombie law,’ warning the GOP could use it to ban abortion

By 37ci3 Jun20,2024

WASHINGTON — A group of Senate Democrats is seeking to repeal a 150-year-old law that reproductive rights advocates fear could be used to further restrict access to abortion, particularly the abortion pill.

The Comstock Act of 1873 prohibits the mailing of obscene, obscene, or abortifacient material, though it has not been widely enforced for decades. Like the abortion pill mifepristone faces legal difficultiesits advocates fear that the Comstock Act could be used by a future president as a tool to restrict access to abortion nationwide, including in states where it is legal.

The bill’s leader is Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn. “The Comstock Act is a 150-year-old zombie law that has long been relegated to the dustbin of history,” he said in announcing the legislative initiative. . “Now there is Trump exceeded Roe, a future Republican administration could misapply this 150-year-old Comstock law to deny rights to American women, even in states where abortion rights are protected by state law.

Although Planned Parenthood has endorsed the new legislation, some parts of the reproductive rights movement and other elected Democrats have been reluctant to take a deep dive into repealing the Comstock Act for fear of legalizing it.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., did not respond or dodge a question from NBC News last week about taking action against Comstock; Instead, he pointed to steps his party has taken on other related issues.

“Look,” Schumer said, “last week we made progress on contraception, this week on IVF, and you’re going to be hearing more from us on reproductive rights in the near future.”

The issue could be a new frontier for Democrats symbolic legislative blitz Defending reproductive rights is using the widely expected Republican opposition to highlight the conflict for voters ahead of the 2024 election.

Some Democrats have warned that the Comstock Act could be exploited if Congress does not act.

“They want to try to abuse the Comstock Act of 1873, which the Department of Justice has repeatedly declared unenforceable, as a backdoor to ban abortions nationwide by criminalizing people for medication abortions — and potentially even necessary medical supplies. abortion care,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, told reporters last week.

The Biden administration has rejected the idea that the law could limit abortion rights. Department of Justice he wrote In December 2022, the Comstock Act “does not prohibit the shipment of certain drugs that can be used to induce abortions unless the sender intends the recipient to use them illegally.”

Abortion opponents have cited the law in court, arguing that the FDA violated the Comstock Act by green-lighting and distributing the pill. This includes the mifepristone case The Supreme Court said last week that he was dismissed the plaintiffs did not have standing.

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, said so in Project 2025. vision For how the Trump administration should handle using the Comstock Act to “enforce criminal bans” on abortion pills by mail. “In the next conservative Administration, the Department of Justice should therefore announce its intent to enforce federal law against providers and distributors of such pills,” the group said.

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By 37ci3

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