Leading Reproductive Rights & Court Reform Advocates Implore Congress to Repeal Comstock Act Immediately

Nationwide Healthcare Across Borders (HCAB), Take Back the Court Action Fund, and UltraViolet Action are calling on Congress in a new memo to repeal the Comstock Act, a Victorian-era “anti-obscenity” law that  originally prohibited use of the U.S. Postal Service and other carriers for shipping anything associated with abortion care. The right is now openly planning to resurrect Comstock to effectively ban abortion and miscarriage treatment nationwide should Republicans regain the White House.

The memo underscores why the right’s plans to revive Comstock “threaten not just reproductive rights, but the entire fabric of public health in the United States,” and calls on Congress to repeal it expeditiously. 

Advocates for reproductive rights and court reform are sounding the alarm that a right-wing administration backed by conservative ideologues in control of the Supreme Court will try to expand and reinterpret the Comstock Act—as they have with many other laws—to ban not only abortion, but to also prohibit distribution of many other proven health interventions that are routinely attacked by political and religious extremists. These include gender-affirming care, contraception, HIV and AIDS prevention, STI treatment and education, and drug and addiction treatment.

Momentum is growing to repeal Comstock. Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) and Congresswomen Becca Balint (D-VT) and Cori Bush (D-MO) have all called publicly for repeal, as have prominent legal scholars David S. Cohen, Greer Donley, and Rachel Rebouché, and the Washington Post editorial board. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has also issued warnings about the dangers of Comstock. 

“There is no time for further complacency,” said Jodi Jacobson, Executive Director of Healthcare Across Borders. “The right continues to agitate for a complete national abortion ban, and they may soon be able to achieve their goal without a single vote in Congress. It’s time to go on the offense and shape the future we want to see.” 

“Republican extremists have proven time and again that they will stop at nothing  to deny us our fundamental rights and freedoms. First they stole the Supreme Court, then they ignored precedent to overturn Roe, and now, they have a chance to again reverse progress by resurrecting and weaponizing a century-old zombie law,”  said Sarah Lipton-Lubet, President of Take Back the Court Action Fund. “If Congress doesn’t act swiftly to repeal the Comstock Act, it may as well roll out the red carpet for the next right-wing administration to distort and weaponize it against all of us. And with a Supreme Court packed with right-wing extremists, there’s no safeguard in place to stop them. If you’re a lawmaker who cares about reproductive freedom, repealing Comstock is your only sensible next step forward.”

As long as Congress keeps Comstock on the books, right-wing extremists will continue to have a powerful tool at their disposal to control our lives,” said Nicole Regalado, Vice President of Campaigns of UltraViolet. “Women are sick and tired of politicians and judges deciding how and when we choose to start a family. Women and our trans siblings are sick and tired of judges and politicians trying to erase us from the history books and public life. We’re not going anywhere and we won’t stop fighting until Congress repeals this 151-year old law.”

Read the full memo here.


Healthcare Across Borders (HCAB) works to ensure everyone has full access to essential reproductive, sexual, and gender-affirming care regardless of zip code, and unencumbered by cost, discrimination, ideology, or stigma. HCAB works with clinicians, lawyers, human rights advocates, and concerned citizens to promote universal access to essential care by 1) supporting new and rapidly evolving models of care that better meet the needs of all people, including de-medicalization of care where appropriate; 2) advocating for effective harm reduction strategies wherever necessary; and 3) conducting public education on the dangers of criminalizing healthcare.

Take Back the Court Action Fund works to inform the public about the danger that the Supreme Court poses to rights and democracy, and advocates for court expansion — adding seats to the court — as the only strategy that will immediately rebalance and restore integrity to the institution after its theft by the right.

UltraViolet Action is a women-led gender justice organization, with an online community of more than 1 million members nationwide. Our members take action to disrupt and end the everyday sexism, misogynoir and transmisogyny women and gender-expansive people face. For over a decade, we have combined organizing, technology, creative campaigning, and people power to win real-world changes for women. 

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