Comstock: the Zombie Coming to Take Your Healthcare Away

This post contains a video, which you can also view here. To support more videos like this, head to!

Way back in 2022 when leaks revealed that the Supreme Court was going to overturn Roe v. Wade, I said that they may try “to send us back to 1972, but the fact of the matter is that they can’t, because to do that they’d have to get rid of the internet and 50 years of medical advances,” referring in part to the availability and safety of abortion medication. I regret to inform you that the anti-choice Religious Right saw that video, thought I made a good point, and decided they were going to have to go ahead and get rid of the internet and 50 years of medical advances.

Special shout out to my patrons at because today I’m going to talk about obscenity, and I’d like to do it as obscenely as possible, which means YouTube’s ad program ain’t gonna like it. Fuck em.

As of this filming, the Supreme Court of the US is currently hearing a case that could effectively ban abortion nationwide. The good news is that experts seem to agree that that’s not going to happen, yet. The bad news is that there are signs the conservative lunatics on the bench are willing to entertain other ways that Christian conservatives can decide what medicine everyone else gets to have.

So, the Supreme Court case in question, Food and Drug Administration v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, is so completely inane that you’re going to think I’m making it up: the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine is an anti-abortion group that claims to represent doctors who are so staunchly opposed to abortion that it is cruel and unusual to force them to perform one. There are two glaring problems with this: first of all, none of the doctors represented by the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine are OB-GYNs who would ever be asked to perform an abortion. Second, healthcare workers are already legally allowed to refuse to do their job if it involves giving a woman healthcare and their invisible sky daddy says he doesn’t want them to. Which, for the record, is fucking stupid. If you’re a pharmacist, your job is to 1.) give people their prescriptions and 2.) shut the fuck up. If you want to refuse to tell a customer which aisle the medicated lip gloss is in that’s fine, I don’t give a shit. But if you want to tell a woman she can’t have her chemotherapy drugs because you think she might be pregnant, go get a job cleaning the toilets at the closest Joel Osteen McMegaChurch Incorporated or else shut the fuck up.

But I digress.

The case is so ridiculous that even the lunatic regressive judges have expressed skepticism during arguments. They would obviously LOVE to rule in favor of the Alliance of Doctors Who Hate Women, but this would be a bridge too far even for them, especially mere months before a very important presidential race that may well be decided by the majority of Americans who steadfastly refuse to agree that the government should tell women and other birthing people and doctors what to do. The anti-abortion push is wildly unpopular across the nation and every new dumbfuck ruling just makes it that much more likely that people will turn up for Biden in November.

So that’s good, but what’s not good has been seeing the conservative lunatic justices batting around some ideas for what’s next, and that involves the Comstock laws. Comstock is what’s known as a Zombie Law, in that it hasn’t been enforced since at least the 1970s but now that Roe v. Wade is gone, it is unfortunately once again relevant. It involves “obscenity,” which, when Comstock was first introduced in 1873, was defined as “whatever your local pastor says it is,” including but not limited to pornography, sex toys, saying the words “cheese and crackers” when we all know you mean “Jesus Christ,” and yes, birth control and abortifacients, and information on where to procure such things.

Comstock said that you can’t use the postal service to send any “obscene” materials, and then later added that you can’t use any private service like FedEx to do it, either.

For many years after, activists have chipped away at Comstock. In Miller v. California in 1973, for example, the Supreme Court laid out a strict test to determine what is and is not “obscene.” The “Miller Test” is strict enough that it means very few things are now considered too obscene to mail to your grandmother, legally speaking, at least.

On the contraceptive front, Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger fought tooth and nail for the right to send condoms and whatnot to whomever she wanted. Which is overly flippant of me, actually, so just to be clear, the ban wasn’t just about sending things to individual people, but it also applied to stocking the actual OB-GYN clinics that would then provide contraceptives and whatnot to patients.

The killing blow came in 1965 with Griswold v. Connecticut, where the Supreme Court ruled that people–well, married people, at least–had a constitutional right to privacy that included the right to access contraception. A later decision extended that right even to single people. How nice.

So that did it for contraception, and then Roe v. Wade did it for abortion, making the entirety of the Comstock effectively dead. And yet, instead of shipping the corpse off to the ol’ incinerator, Congress just let it hang out for 50 years, like Bernie from Weekend at Bernie’s. And if you think that metaphor doesn’t work because Bernie was never going to come back to life, well, you’ve just revealed yourself to be ignorant of the larger Weekend at Bernie’s Cinematic Universe (WaBCU) because in Weekend at Bernie’s 2, the mobsters hired a voodoo queen who uses a sacrificial pigeon to reanimate Bernie’s corpse, which then dances around Manhattan. I’m not making that up, that actually was the plot of Weekend at Bernie’s 2.

And so, with Roe v. Wade gone, the reanimated corpse of Comstock is threatening to come for our abortions. Even married people’s abortions. Even Blue State abortions. This would be a federal ban on abortions, and the only thing that is required to kickstart it is for someone to just start enforcing it again, which is already in the playbook for Project 2025, Donald Trump’s playbook, which also includes just lighting the planet on fire and getting it over, already.

Obviously, blue states would challenge such enforcement, but guess where that will end up? Yep, the Supreme Court, where as I speak Justices Thomas and Alito just can’t stop talking about Comstock and how weird it is that the FDA thinks they can just get away with flagrantly providing women healthcare while the moldering corpse of this very constitutional law is standing in the corner with sunglasses on, waiting to be fully reanimated.
So yeah, that’s what’s going on. Vote in November, obviously, but also consider telling your Congress critter to repeal Comstock. Missouri representative Cori Bush was the first to say that’s what needs doing, so let the rest of them know that yes, this is a very good idea that the majority of the public supports and will handsomely reward with votes and donations and I don’t know, probably gift baskets if that’s allowed.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to top button