American pharmacy chain Walgreens faced backlash over the weekend after announcing it would not sell abortion pills in states where the drugs remain legal after nearly two dozen Republican state attorney generals threatened legal action against the company.
Walgreens, the second-largest pharmaceutical chain in the United States, told Politico last week they would not dispense abortion pills either by mail or at locations in 21 states, including Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, and Montana, where the drug is legal.
The decision followed a letter from 20 Republican attorneys general last month, who warned of violating state laws if the company mailed out abortion pills. Several other pharmacies, including CVS, Walmart, and Costco, also received a similar letter from those state officials.
“This is a very complex and in flux area of the law, and we are taking that into account as we seek certification,” Fraser Engerman, a spokesman for Walgreens, told The New York Times on Friday.
Following the announcement, Business Insider reported the phrases “Walgreens” and “#BoycottWalgreens” trended on Twitter as critics called on consumers to stop supporting the pharmacy — which cited tweets from one of President Joe Biden’s aides, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) — all calling on the pharmacy to reverse its decision.
Kristi Hamrick, a spokesperson for Students for Life, praised Walgreens’ decision.
“This response indicates that pro-life concerns are being heard and that corporations are not rushing to take over the abortion business but are proceeding cautiously,” Hamrick told Poltico.
Students for Life and other pro-life groups have also written to Walgreens and CVS, threatening “legal ramifications” for the pharmacies if they begin filling prescriptions for abortion pills, Politico reported.
Other states where Walgreens agreed to follow laws that made it illegal to dispense the abortion pill through mail include Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.
A Walgreens spokesperson told Business Insider that it would still distribute abortion pills “only in those jurisdictions where it is legal and operationally feasible,” adding it still plans on becoming an FDA-certified pharmacy to sell the drug.
Earlier this year, 22 attorneys general wrote to Federal Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf asking the agency to reverse its decision to certify retail pharmacies to dispense abortion pills.
The letter argues that the distribution of abortion-inducing drugs threatens women’s health.
“The Food and Drug Administration’s decision to abandon commonsense restrictions on remotely prescribing and administering abortion-inducing drugs is both illegal and dangerous,” the letter read. “In direct contravention of longstanding FDA practice and congressional mandate, the FDA’s rollback of important safety restrictions ignores both women’s health and straightforward federal statutes.”
Such medications used to induce abortions, Mifeprex and its generic Mifepristone Tablets, are approved by the FDA for up to 10 weeks gestation, as a woman’s health risk reportedly increases after that time.
Since the historic overturning of the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling by the Supreme Court last summer, medication-induced abortions have been sought after as an alternative abortion method.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, more than half of all “facility-based abortions” in the U.S. yearly have been due to such drugs.