Here Are the Democrats Who Want to Repeal the Comstock Act

Jezebel is keeping a running list of lawmakers who've said they want to wipe an 1873 law off the books before Trump can use it to restrict abortion.

Here Are the Democrats Who Want to Repeal the Comstock Act

Jezebel readers are, by now, aware of the threat posed by the Comstock Act, a 19th-century anti-obscenity law that’s still on the books. The law, written in 1873, bans sending any drug or device used for abortion through the mail and conservative activists want a future Donald Trump administration to enforce the law for the first time in almost 100 years. (Comstock unfortunately also applies to “common carriers,” including UPS and FedEx.)

The prevailing interpretation from the federal courts and the Department of Justice is that Comstock only applies to items used for illegal abortions, but Republicans don’t care: They want to use the law to ban prescribing abortion pills via telemedicine at the very least, and potentially end all abortions nationwide. And in Supreme Court arguments in March, two justices sounded like they believed Comstock could be enforced against legal abortions.

Legal scholars have been warning us about the threat of Comstock since the fall of 2022 but, as of this writing, very few Democratic lawmakers have talked about the antiquated law, let alone called for Congress to repeal it. Make no mistake: Democrats need to make Comstock a campaign issue, otherwise, millions of voters could head into the election with a false sense of security that no abortion ban would pass Congress. In the eyes of Republicans, a ban already exists—all they have to do is enforce it. As Trump attorney and anti-abortion lawyer Jonathan Mitchell told the New York Times in February, “We don’t need a federal ban when we have Comstock on the books.”

The average American probably has no idea that this law is still on the books, so Democrats can make people aware of Comstock by talking about how Trump could weaponize it if he wins and why it must be repealed. They can try to force a vote in both chambers to get Republicans on record before November. We already know that nearly 150 Republican members of Congress asked the Supreme Court to use Comstock to ban telemedicine. And to anyone arguing that failing to repeal Comstock only gives it more legitimacy if Trump wins, the conservatives pushing for it don’t care about legitimacy, they’re just exercising brute power.

Currently, five elected Democrats support repealing the law, as do two newspaper editorial boards. The list is below and will be updated as necessary.

U.S. Senators

One Senator supports repealing Comstock:

Sen. Tina Smith [New York Times op-ed, 4/2/24]

U.S. Representatives

Three Representatives support repealing Comstock, in alphabetical order:

Rep. Becca Balint, Vermont [Twitter, 4/3/24]

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, Oregon [press conference and confirmed by Jezebel, 3/26/24]

Rep. Cori Bush, Missouri [Twitter, 3/26/24]

Other Democrats

One other statewide elected Democrat supports repealing the law:

Attorney General Keith Ellison, Minnesota [press conference, 4/5/24]

Newspapers are non-partisan, but we’re including editorial board statements for visibility.

Editorial Boards

The Washington Post [op-ed, 4/2/24]

Minnesota Star-Tribune [op-ed, 4/6/24]

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