The nation’s second-largest retail pharmacy will not sell the abortion-inducing medication mifepristone — even in states where abortion is still legal.
The major chain is walking on eggshells amid growing pressure from anti-abortion policy-makers and activists not to carry the drug. Mifepristone makes up half of the combination use to induce a medication abortion.
Walgreens responded to a letter sent last month by nearly two dozen Republican state attorneys general threatening legal action against the company if it stocked the medications.
In response, Walgreens said it would not dispense abortion pills either by mail or at brick-and-mortar stores in those states. In some of the affected states, such as Alaska, Iowa, Kansas and Montana, using the pills for abortion is still legal.
It comes just a couple of months after the Biden Administration updated a regulation to allow mifepristone, part of a two-drug cocktail to induce miscarriage, to be stocked and dispensed at pharmacies to pregnant people with a prescription.
Medication-induced abortion has been a lifeline for women in blue states and even red states since the Supreme Court eliminated the federal guarantee to an abortion. A lawsuit in Texas imperils legal access though, as anti-abortion activists seek to reverse FDA approval of the drug
GOP attorneys from these states sent letters to CVS, Rite Aid, Albertsons, Costco, Kroger and Walmart.
In a response, Danielle Gray on Walgreens’ legal team said: ‘As you know, to become certified by the FDA, participating pharmacies must satisfy a range of safety and risk mitigation requirements to dispense this drug.
‘At this time, we are working through the certification process, which includes the evaluation of our pharmacy network to determine where we will dispense Mifepristone and training protocols and updates for our pharmacists.’
Walgreens’ decision to hold off on stocking the drug constitutes yet another hurdle millions of women face in pursuit of a safe abortion.
Mifepristone’s future is tenuous at best. A February lawsuit filed by anti-abortion activists in Texas challenging the Food and Drug Administration’s two-decade-old approval of mifepristone.
The appointed judge for the case, Matthew Kacsmaryk, is a devout conservative and Donald Trump appointee. He is expected to side with the pro-life activists.
Siding with the plaintiffs would significantly disrupt abortion access nationwide. It would effect access to an abortion even is states with no restrictions on the procedure.
It is likely that pro-choice advocates would appeal Kacsmaryk’s ruling.
The FDA has loosened restrictions on abortion-inducing medication in recent years.
The combination of drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, became available at local pharmacies at the start of 2023.
Women can also be prescribed the pills via telemedicine and have it mailed to them by an out-of-state provider.
Per the Justice Department, the U.S. Postal Service can legally deliver abortion pills to people in states where the procedure is banned or restricted, saying that federal law allows the mailing of the pills because there is no way for the sender to know for certain whether the recipient would use them illegally.
Medication abortion has become the most commonly used method for terminating a pregnancy.
In 2020, the two-drug cocktail accounted for 54 percent of all abortions in the US, up from roughly 44 percent in 2019.
This is in part due to the rise of telemedicine and a general preference to stay away from doctors’ offices during the pandemic.
The legal landscape for abortion has been in near-constant flux since the Supreme Court issued a fatal blow to legal access to abortion in the June 2022 decision in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Abortion-rights advocates in blue states as well as states with restrictions of abortion have been able to take solace in the fact that mifepristone, a medication that has been proven safer than carrying a pregnancy to term, will always be available with the input of a doctor.
But the lawsuit in Texas, in addition to growing pressure like what GOP attorneys are displaying here, severely imperils access to the drug.
For many women, the medication is their only option to terminate a pregnancy.