Justice Department authorizes Postal Service to transport abortion drugs in red states

“There are many ways recipients in every state can use these drugs, including to induce an abortion, without violating state law,” Schroeder added. “Therefore, the mere shipment of these drugs to a particular jurisdiction is not a sufficient basis for concluding that the sender intends to use them unlawfully.”

Just a week after the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade Last June and eliminated the nearly half-century-long federal guarantee of abortion rights, the Postal Service asked the Justice Department for legal advice on how to respond to growing efforts to circumvent abortion bans. abortion by sending abortion drugs to people who seek them in those states. .

The recently published opinion indicates that those who send abortion drugs to states with strict abortion laws will “generally” not have the degree of knowledge necessary to violate the federal law known as the Comstock Act, which carries criminal penalties of up to five years in prison. for a first offense and up to 10 years behind bars for subsequent offences.

The opinion notes that state laws restricting abortion generally include or have been interpreted to include exceptions when the life of the mother is threatened. Also, it would generally be difficult for someone sending the drugs to know at what stage of pregnancy they would be consumed or where someone would be while taking them, Schroeder wrote.

The Justice Department’s statement will likely be welcomed by abortion rights advocates, although it is not a complete guarantee of legal immunity for those involved in sending or receiving abortion drugs in states that restrict them. The notice does not prevent state or local prosecutors from using state laws to criminally charge people for such activities.

Further, Schroeder said he was not investigating whether such conduct could violate any federal laws other than the Comstock Act. However, he said his findings on this law would also apply to abortive drug shipping efforts by other carriers, such as United Parcel Service or FedEx.

The Justice Department memo is one of two steps the Biden administration took on Tuesday to protect and expand access to abortion pills — which have recently become the most popular method of terminating a pregnancy in the United States. .

The Food and Drug Administration also updated its rules for drugs to allow brick-and-mortar pharmacies to dispense them to patients for the first time with a prescription. However, pharmacies in more than a dozen states that almost completely ban abortion will not be able to participate.

The two-pill regimen for inducing an abortion has been the subject of legal, political and regulatory battles since the drugs were first approved decades ago. These fights only escalated after the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade in June 2022, and mail-delivery of the pills has become one of the primary ways patients in GOP-controlled states have been able to circumvent newly imposed bans.

Since then, progressive advocacy groups have pushed the Biden administration to take a series of steps to protect and expand access to the process and have expressed frustration with the slow and cautious pace of the White House in the months since. followed the fall of roe deer. The groups, however, hailed the new Justice Department memo and FDA rule, calling them “a step in the right direction” but stressing that more is needed.

“In a post-roe deer around the world, patients need all the options available to get the care they need, whether in person, by mail or at the local pharmacy,” said Kirsten Moore, director of the Expanding Medication Abortion Access project. “Millions of people still live in states where abortion care is completely banned. The type of care you get shouldn’t depend on where you live, but it’s the reality that anti-abortion politicians have created.


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