Walgreens confirmed Thursday that it will not sell abortion pills in states where attorneys general object to its distribution, even in states where that method of abortion remains legal.
The pharmacy giant announced the decision after Republican attorneys general from 20 states sent a letter to the company threatening lawsuits if it attempted to mail abortion medication in their jurisdictions. While Walgreens does not yet sell the abortion pill in any states, it’s in the process of obtaining certification to do so.
Politico was the first to report the decision.
“This is a very complex and in flux area of the law, and we are taking that into account as we seek certification to dispense Mifepristone,” Fraser Engerman, Walgreens’ senior director of external relations, said in a statement, adding that the company has confirmed with each attorney general in the letter that it will not dispense the pills in their states by mail or at Walgreens locations.
Mifepristone is the first of two pills a patient must take to end a pregnancy up to 10 weeks into term. It’s the most common way to terminate pregnancies in the U.S. and is deemed a “safe and effective method” of abortion by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Walgreens’ decision means that in patients in Alaska, Iowa, Kansas and Montana ― states where the abortion pill is legal to receive by mail or at pharmacies ― will not be able to do so at Walgreens because the attorney general in their state objects to it. Walgreens, the second biggest pharmacy chain in America, operates more than 160 locations across those four states.
Those attorneys general argue that federal law prohibits the distribution of abortion pills through the mail ― a common way for pharmacies to deliver prescriptions to customers ― and that President Joe Biden’s administration has illegally given pharmacies the permission to do so.
CVS, the biggest pharmacy chain in the U.S., is also applying for clearance to distribute the drug and received a letter from the 20 attorneys general. It’s not yet clear how the company plans to proceed.
Walgreens’ decision sparked immediate backlash, with #BoycottWalgreens trending on social media Thursday night.
Lawmakers in Illinois, where the pharmacy chain is headquartered, were among those to speak out.
“Women across the nation will be denied their right to access healthcare they are legally entitled to because of this awful corporate decision,” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) tweeted, adding that the company must “rethink this policy.”
“Absolutely awful,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) tweeted. “This willful corporate choice will prevent so many women from choosing the healthcare they need and have a legal right to.”
Anti-abortion activists, meanwhile, are behind a lawsuit seeking to ban mifepristone outright. Their case, which is currently before a federal judge appointed by former President Donald Trump, does not seek to ban misoprostol ― the second of the drugs in the regimen. While patients can still self-administer an abortion with just misoprostol, it is slightly less effective and may be more painful, doctors warn.