Comstock Act Resurgence Implications for Abortion: US District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk is a conservative known for his opinions on various issues, including free speech and birth control. His recent ruling upholding the drag show ban is intriguing.
Kacsmaryk’s rulings often mention the forgotten Comstock Act from the 1800s. In one sentence, he stated that the Comstock Act criminalized the federal distribution of abortion drugs, threatening the prevailing abortion practices.
In a Texas university case on banning drag shows, Kacsmaryk cited the Comstock Act as an example of limited speech rights. This worries people that the ultra-conservative movement may use this old rule to silence discussions about sex.
The Comstock Act was passed in 1873 but wasn’t enforced for nearly a century. Kacsmaryk’s April 2023 ruling revived public interest in the law. The law banning the shipment of materials for “producing abortion or any indecent or immoral use” pleased anti-abortion individuals.
But Kacsmaryk’s recent choice suggests a larger goal. In a case about censoring drag shows, he argued that “history and tradition” should determine protected speech. He said the Comstock Act proved “lewd” address wasn’t covered by the First Amendment, despite differing opinions from other judges.
Reviving the Comstock Act strengthens the proper movement’s resistance to sexuality talks, impacting more than just abortion. Similar to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision on abortion, conservatives might use past examples to restrict free speech about sex and alter the First Amendment.
The Comstock Act has significant real-world effects. It’s often used to shame those discussing sex in literature or education. If conservatives revive the Act to restrict abortion, they might attempt to silence discussions on sex.
As the 2024 election nears, the Comstock Act gains prominence. GOP candidates were asked about their views on free speech, abortion, and schooling. Even with a split Congress, conservatives can advance their idea by controlling the executive branch and courts.
Kacsmaryk’s choices demonstrate the potential consequences of reviving the Comstock Act, including increased barriers to abortion and discussions about sex. The Act’s interpretation and usage may rely on future elections and court rulings.