Walgreens, the second-largest pharmacy chain in the United States, received backlash after announcing it would not sell abortion pills in 21 states where the drugs remain legal.
Walgreen spokesman Fraser Engerman told The New York Times:
“This is a very complex and in flux area of the law, and we are taking that into account as we seek certification.”
The decision followed a letter from 20 Republican attorneys general who warned of violating state laws if the company mailed out abortion pills. Several other pharmacies, including CVS, Walmart, and Costco, also received similar letters. However, Walgreens faced criticism on social media, with the hashtags “#Walgreens” and “#BoycottWalgreens” trending on Twitter as critics called on consumers to stop supporting the pharmacy.
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) also called on the pharmacy to reverse its decision. Pro-life groups, including Students for Life, praised Walgreens’ decision and threatened legal ramifications for the pharmacies if they began filling prescriptions for abortion pills. However, Walgreens clarified that it would still distribute abortion pills “only in those jurisdictions where it is legal and operationally feasible,” adding that it still plans on becoming an FDA-certified pharmacy to sell the drug.
The distribution of abortion-inducing drugs has been a contentious issue, with 22 attorneys general writing to the FDA Commissioner earlier this year asking the agency to reverse its decision to certify retail pharmacies to dispense abortion pills, arguing that the distribution of abortion-inducing drugs threatens women’s health.
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.