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DOJ Clears Postal Service To Deliver Abortion Drugs

The Justice Department cleared the U.S. Postal Service to deliver abortion drugs to states that have strict limits on terminating pregnancy, and has offered limited assurances that a federal law won’t be used to prosecute people criminally over such mailings. An opinion from Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, concludes that a nearly 150-year-old statute aimed at fighting “vice” through the mail is not enforceable against mailings of abortion drugs as long as the sender does not know that the drugs will be used illegally, Politico reports. “We conclude that [the statute] does not prohibit the mailing, or the delivery or receipt by mail, of mifepristone or misoprostol where the sender lacks the intent that the recipient of the drugs will use them unlawfully,” OLC chief Christopher Schroeder wrote.

One week after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last June and eliminated the almost half-century-long federal guarantee of abortion rights, the Postal Service asked the Justice Department for guidance on how to respond to growing efforts to circumvent state abortion bans by sending abortion drugs to people seeking them in those states. The newopinion says those who send abortion drugs to states with strict abortion laws won’t “typically” 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 violation and up to 10 years behind bars for later violations. The opinion notes that state laws limiting abortion generally include or have been interpreted to include exceptions when the life of the mother is threatened. In addition, it would usually be difficult for someone sending the drugs to know at what stage in pregnancy they would be consumed or where someone would be when taking them, Schroeder wrote.


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