Originally passed in 1865 to prevent soldiers from sending pinup pictures throught the mail. It was easily passed by Congress. Made it illegal to send any "obscene book, pamphlet, picture, print, or other publication of vulgar and indecent character" through the mail.

Later on it was revamped. In 1873 the US Congress passed a new version that basically said anything sexual, especially abortion and birth control, was illegal. The exact text was this "obscene, lewd, or lascivious book, pamphlet, picture, paper, print, or other publication of an indecent character" through the mail. It wasn't much different in wording but it had more consequences.

It was named after Anthony Comstock. After the law was passed Comstock boasted he had confiscated 202,679 pornographic pictures; 4,185 boxes of pills, powders, etc. used by abortionists; and 26 obscene pictures hanging on saloon walls. He also was proud to say that he had driven 15 people to suicide.

Many abortionists and women ended up being jailed. Many sex educators were actually hounded to suicide (hence Comstock's claim). Also many writings of famous authors like Balzac, Freud, and others were also outlawed. The law in the end didn't have much effect on pornographic material.

The Comstock Law was never repealed. It was changed to be a bit less harsh in the 1970's but it still outlaws the transport of materials concerning abortion. However, it isn't really enforced anywhere. Legislation was introduced to repeal it, but i'm not sure of the outcome.

Info from www.brittanica.com and The American Pageant: A History of the Republic by Thomas A. Bailey and David M. Kennedy.

A law in the United States which banned birth control. Named for Anthony Comstock, an activist for morality by his definition of the term.

When it was passed, the Comstock Act of 1873 was listed under 17 Stat. 598. It's now part of 18 USC 1462 (that's Title 18, Section 1462 of the US Code), which reads:

Whoever brings into the United States, or any place subject to the jurisdiction thereof, or knowingly uses any express company or other common carrier or interactive computer service [ ... ]

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both, for the first such offense and shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both, for each such offense thereafter.

The phrase "article ... intended for any indecent or immoral use" was understood to include all artificial forms of birth control, including condoms and cervical caps.

The law was used to prosecute Margaret Sanger and other prominent feminists, and the condom industry in general.

The Comstock Act is still on the books. However, the Supreme Court has struck down many of its provisions. Due to the 1996 Communications Decency Act, however, there is still some concern that it could be used to try to shut down websites like those of Blowfish and Good Vibrations.

The Comstock Act was officially called "An Act for the Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use".

"United States v. One Package of Japanese Pessaries", http://womhist.binghamton.edu/mwd/doc25.htm
"US Code: Title 18, Section 1462", http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/1462.html

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