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Anthony Comstock

Who was Anthony Comstock and why does he matter?

Anthony Comstock was born in 1844. He was obsessed with controlling everyone’s sex lives.
Comstock hated birth control, abortion, sex toys, and even nudity in art.

And now? His fans are trying to bring his ideas back.

A  letter coming out of an envelope that says "Ooh La La"

What are the Comstock laws, and how do they impact me?

In 1873, Congress passed the Comstock Act — a set of laws in Anthony Comstock’s name — to ban the mailing or shipping of every obscene, lewd, indecent, article, matter, thing or device, with the goal of restricting abortion, contraceptives, sex toys, and even spicy love letters.

Under the Comstock laws, thousands of people were prosecuted.

An image of a quill and a pot of ink

Why doesn’t it make sense to apply the Comstock laws to abortion?

Abortion opponents want to take us back to the Victorian era and will try to intentionally misapply this 1800s law to take away our rights. Even two U.S. Supreme Court justices appear open to this plan.

That’s wild because various court rulings, Congress, and the U.S. Department of Justice have made clear that the Comstock Act doesn’t apply to lawful abortions.

A horse drawn carriage

What’s the bottom line on the Comstock Act and abortion access?

We’re not trying to bring back horse-drawn carriages or bustles. So why are abortion opponents desperate to go back to 1873? Because it's always been about control.

If abortion opponents get their way, this could drastically disrupt abortion access in every state — even where abortion is protected.

Read more about how the “zombie Comstock law” threatens abortion….and much more

Learn More

The Comstock laws, summarized

Abortion opponents are desperate to ban abortion nationwide and want to do so by enforcing a radical and willfully incorrect interpretation of the 1873 Comstock Act — ignoring the settled understanding of the law from Congress, the courts, and the Department of Justice.

These laws are part of a patriarchal, outdated view about gender roles and sex in society. Anti-abortion lawmakers and their allies are willing to intentionally misinterpret the law to control our bodies and our health care. 

The Comstock laws are a threat to freedom and privacy

The Comstock laws are about more than abortion — imagine a world where companies, government institutions, and “Comstock fans” snoop through our packages. A world where companies have to worry if their products are “indecent” — from medications to anything about sex, LGBTQ+ issues, or even provocative art pieces. This kind of surveillance could extend to supplies used for other types of reproductive care as well, including IVF, miscarriage management, and prenatal care.

This is a huge privacy issue, a barrier to health care, and could set a dangerous precedent for censorship and government control. 

Who decides what happens next, and how do I get involved?

You have the power. Vote for candidates who support sexual and reproductive health care. Elected officials must support reproductive rights and health care, and want to establish an enduring federal right to abortion. Anti-abortion lawmakers have made clear they will instead continue attacking access to safe care, even if it means misapplying laws from the 1800s.

Elected officials must continue to vocally support access to abortion, including medication abortion, and reaffirm what has been clear for decades: that Comstock laws do not apply to lawful abortions, and that efforts to revive and misinterpret this Victorian era law are outrageous.

Condoms, medicine, vibrators, menstrual pads, etc

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