A December 2021 decision from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow mailing abortion pills and the fallout from the US Supreme Court’s decision on June 24 to overturn Roe vs Wade are making the US Postal Service (USPS) a battleground for abortion access.
As some US states move to enforce bans on abortion, pills-by-mail will become a legal challenge as well as one of enforcement. While states can regulate access to health within their borders, they can’t regulate federal mail. And monitoring the contents of each of the millions of packages coursing through the national postal system is unrealistic in a post-pandemic world where healthcare has moved beyond brick-and-mortar clinics.
Unlike abortion clinics, which squared up against anti-abortion protesters for decades, the postal service will be a more difficult target. “You can’t protest every mailbox; you can’t create that type of regulatory regime,” Amanda Allen, senior counsel at the Lawyering Project, told Curbed last month. The USPS already struggles to control the flow of fentanyl, the highly controlled, deadly drug, through its postal system. It seems unlikely to have the capacity to stop abortion pills, which remain legal and federally approved, from showing up in the mail.