Walgreens will not sell abortion pills in some states where they are legal


Walgreens will not distribute abortion pills in Alaska, Iowa, Kansas or Montana — states where they are currently legal — as the company treads carefully under intense legal and political pressure from the anti-abortion movement.

At issue is a decision by the Food and Drug Administration in early January to allow physical pharmacies to carry mifepristone, part of an abortion drug cocktail now believed to account for more than half of abortions in the United States. Walgreens has said it intends to become a certified pharmacy under the program, although it will only distribute “in those jurisdictions where it is legal to do so,” Walgreens said. company spokesman Fraser Engerman at the time.

But the FDA decision drew the attention of 20 Republican attorneys general, who in a letter sent Feb. 1 warned of legal action if the pharmacy chain participated. Walgreens responded to each by promising not to distribute the drug in their state, Engerman said.

“This is a very complex and changing area of ​​the law, and we take it into consideration when seeking certification to dispense mifepristone,” Engerman said in an email late Thursday, adding that Walgreens does not currently carry the drug.

Abortion is now prohibited or threatened in these states

Abortion pills can already be obtained through online pharmacies, which send the medicines directly to patients. Some states have tried to ban the mailing of abortion pills, but the Justice Department has said the US Postal Service can deliver abortion pills to any state. The recent FDA decision is intended to give women more ways to access the drugs.

Some pharmacies may await the outcome of a lawsuit, filed in Texas by the conservative group Alliance Defending Freedom, which seeks to overturn the drug’s 19-year-old approval. A decision by US District Court Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, an anti-abortion Republican appointed by former President Donald Trump, threatens to disrupt the drugs’ FDA approval.

The Texas judge who could strike down the abortion pill

Walgreens is among the big pharmacies that have come under intense pressure from anti-abortion activists. Its annual shareholder meeting in late January ended with a bang as protesters erupted from the podium. Days later, at a CVS pharmacy in Pittsburgh, protesters on both sides of the debate tried to drown each other out with megaphones. On February 14, another protest broke out at Walgreens’ national headquarters in Chicago.

Engerman, the Walgreens spokesman, said the company respects the right to protest. “We strongly believe in the right to peaceful protest and an area was set aside for this purpose, but unfortunately some protesters took further disruptive action,” Engerman said.

Caroline Smith, a spokeswoman for the Progressive Anti-Abortion Rebellion, said her group was not behind the disruption at the particular meeting, but noted that her group held other protests in early February that spread to 60 confirmed cities and featured participation from at least one elected official.

Walgreens is “a little smaller than CVS, and we suspect that if Walgreens is forced to abandon its efforts to get the abortion pill, CVS may be more likely to follow suit,” she said.

Supporters of abortion rights are also in contact with pharmacies. The Ensuring Medication Abortion Access Project, an organization that seeks to improve how abortion medications are dispensed in the United States, began contacting pharmacies in late 2021, according to Kirsten Moore, the group’s director.

“What I was very pleasantly surprised to hear from most pharmacies was, ‘This is an FDA-approved drug and we have no problem carrying it,'” said Moore. Her goal is to build a “coalition of the willing” among major pharmacies willing to carry the drug.An exception might be Walmart, which is based in deeply Republican Arkansas, she said.

The big pharmacy chains face a complicated legal and political calculation that differs greatly from state to state. In Kansas, for example, the state Supreme Court has ruled that the right to abortion is protected by the state constitution. But state law requires abortion drugs to be “administered by or in the same room as” the prescribing physician, Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach warned Walgreens in another letter.

The pharmacy’s legal director responded to Kobach by saying the company had no plans to sell the drug in Kansas or ship it there. “If this approach changes, we will make sure to notify you,” Walgreens global legal officer Danielle Gray wrote.

CVS and Rite-Aid did not immediately respond for comment.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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