Back in 2020, as then-President Donald Trump and his inner circle worked to kneecap the U.S. Postal Service, the American public got a crash course in the vital role the agency plays in our democracy.
At the time, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy was slowing the mail — effectively helping Trump carry out his plan to sabotage absentee voting in the 2020 election (whether intentionally or not). Activists noted that the effort would prevent Americans from receiving important medications by mail in a timely manner.
A functioning democracy relies on an effective and apolitical mail service.
In a letter to Congress in May 2020, over 100 civil rights groups urged Congress to pass robust funding for the Postal Service, calling a refusal to do so an “anti-civil rights vote.”
That was a prescient warning. How and whether you receive mail is absolutely a civil rights issue. And it’s going to be put to the test again.
The conservative-tilted Supreme Court overturned federal abortion rights last week, and Republican lawmakers have their sights set on the Postal Service as they look to bar women from receiving abortion pills in the mail. It’s a prime example of how a functioning democracy relies on an effective and apolitical mail service. And it’s another reason the conservative movement would love to privatize — and wield more control over — the federal mail system.
The Biden administration has said it will ensure Americans continue to have access to Food and Drug Administration-approved abortion pills like mifepristone. That will lead to standoffs with GOP-led states looking to cut off access for pregnant people in need of abortions.
The Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health organization, reported this year that medication abortion — which allows patients to take pills received through the mail — now accounts for more than half of all abortions in the U.S. Republicans surely know this, and they have put up all sorts of roadblocks to prevent people from acquiring these medications. Several states have measures barring people from receiving abortion pills after telehealth appointments, meaning pregnant people must visit physicians in person (often, several times) to receive abortion care assuming it’s not banned outright.
The fight for reproductive rights won’t be confined to health care facilities. Expect it to spill over into America’s mailboxes, as well.