Whoever shall knowingly deposit or cause to be deposited for mailing or delivery, anything declared by this section to be non-mailable, or shall knowingly take, or cause the same to be taken, from the mails for the purpose of circulating or disposing thereof, or of aiding in the circulation or disposition thereof, shall be fined not more than five thousand dollars, or imprisoned not more than five years, or both. Text of the federal law for the District of Columbia[ edit ] The text of this act sect.
Note that forbidden items may legally be possessed if they are only for one's own use and will not be distributed to others. State Laws on Birth Control Contraception , etc. Note that Ruppenthal and Dennett differ on some topics and the research to determine who is correct has not yet been done. Criminal Statutes on Birth Control; J. Congress, the legislatures of nineteen states and Puerto Rico, and the commission of the Canal Zone, have enacted statutes that clearly and definitely refer to the prevention of conception in women as a practice to be deterred  by such laws.
In only one state, Connecticut, is the actual act of using contraception a crime,  In Canada, at least Ontario has such a law deterring contraception'. Twenty- two more states of the Union, and also Hawaii have statutes which the courts, with liberality of construction or strictness, hold to apply or not apply criminally to the matter of birth control, at least through prevention of conception, or "contraception.
Four states, Georgia, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and North Carolina, and also Alaska, appear to have no legislation that either certainly or possibly may be held to apply to birth control. All The forty- nine sets of enactments referred to, are found in the statute books under "obscenity" and "offenses against morals," as headings. In most cases the phraseology relating to contraception is found embedded among many clauses relating to pornographic or non-mailable matter, to indecent and immoral printing, writing, painting and the like.
Colorado, Indiana and Wyoming mention " self-pollution ," and Massachusetts names " self-abuse " along with abortion and prevention of conception.
The federal laws are quite full in expression, and perhaps served as model for most of the states. In some states a limitation is "if they manifest a tendency to corrupt the morals of youth," or morals generally. Would courts hold that contraceptives or what are today called sex toys were such articles? In Maryland "obscene and indecent" books are mentioned, and "obscene" matters in South Carolina, with no more specific designation. In Ontario the law very widely includes the assertion or warranty of the offender, as the language is "any article intended or represented as a means of preventing conception or causing abortion.
To aid in capture of contraband articles, instruments and literature or other things, search warrants or seizure, or both, are authorized in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho and Nevada. Where advice or information as to abortion is forbidden, though some states, as Minnesota and New York, carefully discriminate against "unlawful abortion," others, as Kansas and Iowa, say, "procuring abortion," with no intimation that such could, in any case, be lawful.
Kansas, however, in another statute-as to manslaughter of a woman pregnant or her child-excepts "when it shall be necessary to save the life of the mother," and thus inferentially distinguishes acts as of two classes. While some statutes are word for word alike in several states, most of them vary in scope. Among the forbidden acts, in connection with articles, instruments, books, papers, etc.
To meet the ingenuity of evasive devices, New Jersey includes all persons "who shall in any manner, by recommendation against its use or otherwise give or cause to be given, or aid in giving any information, how or where any of the literature, instruments, medicines, etc. A few exceptions from the sweeping provisions are incorporated.
Besides forbidding the deposit of such matters in the mails, Colorado adds "or with any person. As with laws everywhere that impinge upon sex matters in any way, there is more of taboo and superstition in the choice and chance, the selection and caprice, the inclusions and exclusions of these several enactments than any clear, broad, well-defined principle or purpose underlying them.
Without such principle, well-defined and generally accepted, the various laws must remain largely haphazard and capricious.
In contrast to Ruppenthal previous section Dennett researched by Dilla only deals with the contraception aspects of the Comstock laws. Twenty-four States and Puerto Rico specifically penalize contraceptive knowledge in their obscenity laws. Twenty-four States and the District of Columbia, Alaska and Hawaii have obscenity laws, under which, because of the Federal precedent, contraceptive knowledge may be suppressed as obscene, although it is not specifically mentioned.
Obscenity has never been defined in law. This produces a mass of conflicting, inconsistent judicial decision, which would be humorous, if it were not such a mortifying revelation of the limitations and perversions of the human mind.
Twenty-three States make it a crime to publish or advertise contraceptive information. They are as follows: Twenty-two States include in their prohibition drugs and instruments for the prevention of conception. There are far fewer in this category per Ruppenthal, They are as follows: Fourteen States make it a crime to tell anyone where or how contraceptive knowledge may be acquired. Six States prohibit the offer to assist in any method whatever which would lead to knowledge by which contraception might be accomplished.
Eight States prohibit depositing in the Post Office any contraceptive information. Four States have laws authorizing the search for and seizure of contraceptive instructions, and these are: Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Oklahoma. In all these States but Idaho, the laws authorize the destruction of the things seized.
Certain exemptions from the penalties of these laws are made by the States for Medical Colleges: Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Wyoming. Seventeen States prohibit any information which corrupts morals, 12 of them, as starred in the following list, particularly mentioning the morals of the young.
This is an interesting point of view of the frequently offered objection to freedom of access to contraceptive knowledge, that it will demoralize the young. North Carolina and New Mexico. Objective of the laws[ edit ] The Comstock laws targeted pornography , contraceptive equipment, and such educational materials as descriptions of contraceptive methods and other reproductive health-related materials.
Of particular note were advertisements for abortifacients found in penny papers, which offered pills to women as treatment for "obstruction of their monthly periods. During his time of greatest power, some anatomy textbooks were prohibited from being sent to medical students by the United States Postal Service. Yet the laws engendered by him did significantly penalize birth control information for all uses.
Thus, if one banned all contraceptive information, etc. Though the courts originally adopted the British Hicklin test , in an American test was put into place in Roth v. United States , in which it was determined that obscenity was material whose "dominant theme taken as a whole appeals to the prurient interest" to the "average person, applying contemporary community standards," and was, "utterly without redeeming social importance.
Abramson , the widespread availability of pornography during the American Civil War — gave rise to an anti-pornography movement, culminating in the passage of the Comstock Act in ,  but which also dealt with birth control and abortion issues. A major supporter and active persecutor for the moral purposes of the Comstock laws was the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice , led by Comstock.
All of this data was used to support the fact that many of the younger, more unsupervised members of the society had more than enough free time in the evenings to spend in billiard saloons, gambling halls, porter houses, and houses of prostitution and assignation. The memorandum supported a plan to construct a centrally located building to better serve the younger men of New York. Not only was the building to support the spiritual, mental, and social well-being of the young-men, it was also suggested to benefit their physical condition.
After conferring with a district attorney, a committee was organized to write up a bill to be pushed through the New York State legislature. In , the bill was passed however it was not as strong as the association would have liked it to be. After the passing of the bill, the YMCA appointed a committee to oversee the enforcement of the law. This law included the important power of search and seizure which authorized magistrates to issue warrants that allowed police officers "to search for, seize and take possession of such obscene and indecent books, papers, articles and things" and hand them over to the district attorney.
If the indicted party ended up being found guilty, the materials that were confiscated in the raid were destroyed. He started off by beginning a campaign against the saloons in his New York neighborhood of Brooklyn. The biggest contributor to igniting Comstock's mission to rid of any and all obscene material was when one of his dear friends died.
Comstock blamed his death on him being "led astray and corrupted and diseased" which suggests that the friend contracted a venereal disease that was connected to masturbation, nervous disability, and susceptibility to illness. After this incident, he continued on with the crusade all throughout his neighborhood and in doing so, he kept a ledger that had a record of every single arrest he had made. Once the current President, Morris Jesup, became aware of the letter he immediately went to see Comstock and allocated the funds towards his efforts.
On top of the money allocated for Comstock's efforts, Jesup also gave him a bonus for his efforts. Comstock was invited to speak before the YMCA's Committee on Obscene Literature, which was later renamed the Suppression of Vice, and present how the funds allocated for him were used. Comstock was hired by the association to help them fight for the suppression of such vices. After Woodhull's acquittal, Comstock was reminded of one of the weaknesses of the law.
The federal statute did not include newspapers, nor did it specify that birth control information and appliances were "obscene". It was Comstock's mission to somehow include these measures in a new law later known as the Comstock Law. To do this, Comstock drafted a new federal bill and with the sponsorship of Representative Clinton L.
Merriam , he met with members of the House and proved his point by exhibiting obscene materials. Through past connections, Comstock got Justice William Strong to introduce the bill to William Windom , a senator from Minnesota, to take the bill to the floor of the Senate.
While the bill was undergoing further revision, a provision was coordinated in a federal appropriations bill. This provision was authorized by Congress, which essentially created a new position—special agent in the United States Post Office. This position held the power to confiscate immoral materials sent in the mail and arrest those that were sending it.
While the Comstock Law originally authorized police assistance to the group in censoring materials and gave half of the fines collected under this law, the rewards were removed a month later. They also tried to ensure that Comstock was dependent on their donations.
Comstock derived his full-time salary from the vice society. At the same time, he was able to hold a federal commission that allowed him to secure warrants for arrests and take and destroy publications and other materials. Therefore, New York, as well as the federal government, gave him most of the responsibility to implement moral censorship.
They entrusted that responsibility to Comstock for forty-two years until his death in Over that period of time, he filled the two positions, one in the Post Office and the other in the New York vice society.