Justice Department grants postal service permission to ship abortion drugs to red states

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

Just a week after the fall of the Supreme Court Roe v. calf last June and scrapped the nearly half-century federal guarantee of abortion rights, the Postal Service asked the Justice Department for legal guidance on how to respond to growing efforts to circumvent state abortion bans by mailing abortion drugs to people seeking them in those states .

The newly issued opinion says those who send abortion drugs to states with strict abortion laws “usually” lack the knowledge to break the federal law known as the Comstock Act, which carries a penalty of up to five years in prison for one first offense and up to 10 years behind bars for further offenses.

The report notes that state laws restricting abortion generally contain, or have been construed to contain, exceptions when the mother’s life is threatened. In addition, it is usually difficult for someone sending in the drugs to know at what stage of pregnancy they would be consumed or where someone would be when taking them, Schroeder wrote.

The Justice Department’s statement is likely to be welcomed by pro-choice advocates, although it does not provide a full guarantee of legal immunity for those involved in shipping or receiving abortion drugs in states that restrict them. The Opinion does not prevent state or local prosecutors from using state law to prosecute individuals for such activities.

Additionally, Schroeder said he does not address whether such behavior might violate federal statutes other than the Comstock Act. But he said his conclusions on that law would also apply to efforts to ship abortion drugs through other carriers, such as United Parcel Service or FedEx.

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

The Food and Drug Administration also updated its regulations for the drug to allow brick-and-mortar pharmacies to dispense it to patients with a prescription for the first time. However, pharmacies in more than a dozen states that have near-total abortion bans will not be able to participate.

The two-pill regimen to induce an abortion has been the subject of legal, political, and regulatory wrangling since the drugs were first approved decades ago. These fights only escalated after the fall of the Supreme Court Roe v. calf in June 2022, and getting the pills mailed became one of the top ways patients in GOP-controlled states were able to circumvent newly imposed bans.

Since then, progressive advocacy groups have urged the Biden administration to take a variety of measures to protect and expand access to the process, expressing frustration at the White House’s slow and cautious pace in the months following the fall of zum expressed turnip. However, the groups praised the new DOJ memo and FDA rule, calling it “a step in the right direction” but stressing that more is needed.

“In a post-turnip In the world, patients need every available option to get the care they need, whether it’s in person, through the mail, or at the local pharmacy,” said Kirsten Moore, director of the Expanding Medication Abortion Access Project. “Millions of people are still living in States where abortion is completely banned. The type of care you receive shouldn’t depend on where you live, but that’s the reality anti-abortionists have created.”

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