Walgreens, CVS To Start Dispensing Abortion Pill In Stores

President Joe Biden called the announcement "an important milestone in ensuring access to mifepristone."
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Two of the biggest pharmacies in the United States announced Friday that they will soon start dispensing the abortion medication mifepristone in select stores.

CVS and Walgreens both confirmed Friday that they’ve completed the Food and Drug Administration’s certification process to start filling prescriptions for the pills, which can be used to terminate some pregnancies in the first trimester and account for more than half of abortions in the U.S.

Walgreens “expects to begin dispensing within a week, consistent with federal and state laws,” said the pharmacy, which operates more than 8,000 locations across the country. Its rollout will begin in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California, and Illinois ― all states that have protected access to abortion in the wake of Roe v. Wade falling in 2022.

CVS said it’s starting with a smaller rollout on a slightly later timeline.

“We’ll begin filling prescriptions for the medication in Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the weeks ahead and will expand to additional states, where allowed by law, on a rolling basis,” said the company, which operates more than 9,000 pharmacies nationwide.

Boxes of the drug mifepristone, the most common way to carry out an abortion.
Boxes of the drug mifepristone, the most common way to carry out an abortion.
via Associated Press

The New York Times was the first to report the news.

Neither pharmacy will offer mifepristone by mail. That practice has been a source of debate in recent years, though a recent study found that using telehealth to obtain abortion pills through the mail is as safe and effective as seeing a doctor in person for the same purpose.

President Joe Biden praised CVS and Walgreens for their announcements Friday and encouraged more pharmacies to seek the certification.

“Today is an important milestone in ensuring access to mifepristone, a drug that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as safe and effective for more than 20 years,” he said in a statement. “With major retail pharmacy chains newly certified to dispense medication abortion, many women will soon have the option to pick up their prescription at a local, certified pharmacy—just as they would for any other medication. I encourage all pharmacies that want to pursue this option to seek certification.”

More than a dozen states have successfully outlawed abortion following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in 2022 removing federal protections for the procedure. Several other states are enforcing bans on abortion after just a few weeks into pregnancy, leaving the procedure accessible in about just of half of the states.

Mifepristone is one half of the two-drug combination usually used in medication abortions, along with misoprostol. But mifepristone has been targeted more intensely for restriction, and even in states where mifepristone remains legal, political maneuvering has stymied access.

After Walgreens announced last year that it would seek certification to sell it in pharmacies, a group of 20 attorneys general from conservative states threatened legal action against the pharmacy if they proceeded with distribution in their states. That included four states where mifepristone is legal: Alaska, Iowa, Kansas and Montana.

Walgreens acquiesced to the threat, with a spokesperson calling the matter “a very complex and in flux area of the law.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) chastised Walgreens for bowing to the pressure and canceled a a $54 million contract with the company.

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