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Law School Case Brief

United States v. One Package - 86 F.2d 737 (2d Cir. 1936)

Rule:

The Tariff Act of 1930, 19 U.S.C.S. § 1305(a), provides that all persons are prohibited from importing into the United States from any foreign country any article whatever for the prevention of conception or for causing unlawful abortion. Physicians who import such articles in order to use them for the health of their patients are excepted in the case of an abortive which is prescribed to save life because § 1305(a) only prohibits the importation of articles for causing "unlawful abortion."

Facts:

Dr. Stone, a physician, received a package from Japan containing pessaries for the purpose of trying them in her practice and giving her opinion as to their usefulness for contraceptive purposes. Dr. Stone testified that she was prescribing the use of pessaries in cases where it would not be desirable for a patient to undertake a pregnancy. A libel was filed against Dr. Stone because the pessaries were alleged to be imported contrary to § 305(a) of the Tariff Act of 1930, which stipulated that "All persons are prohibited from importing into the United States from any foreign country any article whatever for the prevention of conception or for causing unlawful abortion." The government sought review after the libel was dismissed by the district court. 

Issue:

Was the dismissal of the libel case proper?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The decree dismissing the libel was affirmed because the statute was not designed to prevent the importation, sale, or carriage by mail of things which could intelligently be employed by conscientious and competent physicians for the purpose of saving life or promoting the well being of their patients. The court further found that physicians who imported such articles in order to use them for the health of their patients were excepted by implication from the literal terms of the statute. The court also found that the articles were certainly excepted in the case of an abortive prescribed to save life because § 305(a) only prohibited the importation of articles for causing unlawful abortions. Because the articles in question were not intended for an immoral purpose, the decree dismissing the libel was affirmed.

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