The Department of Justice (DOJ) will allow the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to continue shipping abortion pills, even within jurisdictions that restrict abortions, according to a Dec. 23 opinion from the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel published Tuesday.
The DOJ determined that USPS’s mailing of abortion-inducing drugs mifepristone and misoprostol doesn’t violate the Comstock Act, a set of laws from 1873 which restrict the mailing of materials perceived to be immoral or indecent. One dozen states ban most abortions, and 18 states ban the dispensation of abortion pills by mail, according to the Guttmacher Institute; USPS will still be able to ship chemical abortion pills to these states under the DOJ’s new guidance.
Since the drugs are legal at the federal level and have uses besides abortion such as blood sugar regulation, people who ship the drugs don’t necessarily know whether they will be used illegally and don’t know enough to consider them guilty of a crime, the opinion argued.
“The [Office of Legal Counsel] analysis confirms that the Comstock Act does not require the Postal Service to change our current practice, which has been to consider packages containing mifepristone and misoprostol to be mailable under federal law in the same manner as other prescription drugs,” a USPS spokesman told the Daily Caller News Foundation. The USPS does not take a position on abortion.
Pill vendors, sometimes operating out of foreign countries, have flooded the internet with illegal, unregulated abortion drugs which can be obtained by mail. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has significantly relaxed its regulation of the drugs throughout the pandemic, first by dropping requirements that medical professionals dispense the drugs in person, then by allowing pharmacies to dispense the drugs.
Pro-life groups have warned that easier access to abortion-inducing drugs under relaxed government regulations can put women’s health at risk: the abortion pill is only FDA-approved up to 10 weeks into a pregnancy, and women who take it without a doctor’s intervention may miscalculate gestational age and take it later in their pregnancy than intended are at a higher risk of requiring surgery and of developing an infection, according to the Charlotte Lozier Institute.
Mifepristone also doesn’t treat ectopic pregnancies, so women with undiagnosed ectopic pregnancies who take the drug without seeing a doctor may not seek additional treatment in time, risking hemorrhaging and death.
The DOJ did not respond to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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