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John Warner: Kavanaugh and the return of the Comstock Act



For the Monitor
Thursday, September 13, 2018

Three years ago, I wrote a “My Turn” article on “The miracle of family planning” (Monitor Forum, Sept. 3, 2015) detailing why access to contraception and women’s health facilities was critical to securing the future of the human race.

I told the story of how, at the beginning of the 20th century, my great-grandfather had 10 children. He lived in the era of the Comstock Act, which was adopted in 1873 and not overturned until 1965. The act declared contraception and “birth control” (including abortion) to be “obscene and illegal.” At the time the impetus for the act was that lower-class birth rates far exceeded upper-class birth rates, as wealthier women limited and delayed having children posing the specter of an American dominated by “inferior” and “lower class” people, especially immigrants. If the Comstock Act had been successful in curbing the ability of women to control their own bodies, the results would have been tragic, with resulting population levels in our country today approaching 1 billion people – far outpacing the resources needed to support this massive teeming pool of humanity.

Fortunately for America, birth rates fell because women chose to ignore the law, but in doing so these millions of women (to whom we owe a huge debt of gratitude) were each forced to perform illegal acts simply by limiting their family size.

This month we have seen the specter of the Comstock Act once again raise its ugly head during the confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh as nominee to the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh has referred to birth control as “abortion-inducing drugs” and is supported in his nomination by well-funded and powerful forces (including our vice president) who wish to impose their will on American women and effectively resurrect the Comstock Act by making their most intimate and important of choices once again illegal.

The Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination threatens not only the freedom of American women to make the best reproductive health choices for themselves and their families, but also once again puts religious-based decisions before scientific and medical knowledge, as well as directly threatening the future welfare of our country’s inhabitants.

(John Warner lives in Warner.)