Walgreens, the nation's second-largest pharmacy chain, announced Thursday that it will not dispense abortion pills in some states where the sale of abortion pills remains legal. The company justified its decision based on the continuously changing situation of state legislations on this issue, as well as pressure from several attorney generals and pro-life groups.
According to the company, more than 20 attorney generals from states where dispensing the abortion pill is not prohibited warned in writing that they would take legal action if they began, or continued distributing the drug. The warning referred both to its sale in physical stores and to its mailing. At present, chemical abortion is the most widely used method in the country.
Abortion pill distribution, in court
In statements to Politico, Walgreen's Director of External Relations, Fraser Engerman, pointed out that one of the main reasons for the decision not to sell the drug is the legal uncertainty that exists at the moment. Following the Supreme Court ruling that abortion is not a constitutional right, most states have enacted laws to prohibit or guarantee it. Many of these regulations are still in the courts awaiting judgment. The situation in these states may change suddenly at any moment and is therefore considered too unpredictable to abide by.
Against this backdrop, the American Pharmacists Association called for caution and demanded that the legal disputes be clarified as soon as possible. E. Michael Murphy, the association's state government affairs advisor, lamented that members are lost among the "glaring contradictions between state and federal laws that make it very difficult to identify what is legal and what is not."
For example, with the law in hand, the company could, at this time, provide access to these pills in Alaska, Iowa, Kansas and Montana, but they have received contrary indications from the attorney generals. In Kansas, the rule that women seeking abortions can only be treated with a doctor's prescription has been blocked in the courts, so the company chooses to accede to the claims of these administrations.
Kansas celebrates the decision
The prosecutor of this state did not hesitate to welcome the pharmaceutical company's decision. In a statement, Kris Kobach stressed that this is a "significant victory" for the pro-life cause and thanked the company for its decision to comply with the law.
In my letter to Walgreens, we made clear that Kansas will not hesitate to enforce the laws against mailing and dispensing abortion pills, including bringing a RICO action to enforce the federal law prohibiting the mailing of abortion pills. Evidently, Walgreens understood that my office was serious about this. I’m grateful that Walgreens responded quickly and reasonably and intends to comply with the relevant laws.
This is a significant victory for the pro-life cause and for women’s health. The dispensing of these pills without a physician present would expose women to complications and potentially coercion. I’m grateful Walgreens responded and intends to fully comply with the law. #ksleg https://t.co/af7WwGdpQn
— Kris W. Kobach (@KrisKobach1787) February 20, 2023
Six other companies warned not to sell abortion pills
The Attorney Generals also issued warnings to CVS, Albertsons, Rite Aid, Costco, Walmart and Kroger, urging them not to dispense the drug either in the physical stores or by mail order. So far, none of the six companies has commented.
On the other hand, the Walgreen's spokesperson indicated that his company continues to work to obtain the pertinent permits to be able to distribute this drug in some states -he would not specify which ones- where legislators defend it as a right.