The nation’s second-largest drugstore chain will not sell abortion pills in 20 states after Republican attorneys general warned of possible legal consequences if they did, Fox News Digital has confirmed.
In February, twenty Republican Attorneys General wrote to Walgreens Corp. threatening legal action if Walgreens dispenses the abortion pill, mifepristone, to consumers in their US pharmacies.
The attorneys general cited 18 USC § 1461, which is a federal law that prohibits the use of the US Postal Service to send or receive any drug that “will be used or applied to induce abortion.”
The attorneys general noted that President Biden “encouraged the US Postal Service to ignore this plain text” previously.
“But the text, not the Biden administration’s opinion, is what governs. And the Biden administration’s opinion does not stand up to even the slightest scrutiny,” the attorneys general argued in their Feb. 1 letter to Walgreens Corp.
FDA ALLOWS CERTAIN RETAIL PHARMACIES TO DISTRIBUTE ABORTION PILLS
Republican lawmakers shared that they “reject the Biden administration’s bizarre interpretation” of the federal law banning the shipment of abortion drugs and would take it to the Supreme Court if necessary.
Attorneys general from the following state wrote the letter in disagreement with Walgreen’s policy: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.
Following the letter from the Republican Attorneys General, Walgreen’s changed their plan, sharing that they will no longer distribute mifepristone in their states and also do not plan to ship the drug to consumers.
The pharmacy chain’s announcement Thursday signals that access to mifepristone may not expand as widely as federal regulators intended in January when they finalized a rule change allowing more pharmacies to provide the pill.
THUN, LANKFORD PRESS REPUBLICANS TO PROTECT BABIES WHO SURVIVE MISPRINTED ABORTIONS
However, Walgreens is working to become eligible through the FDA certification process.
The company currently does not distribute the pills anywhere.
ABOUT THE ABORTION PILL
The US Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone in 2000 to terminate pregnancy when used in combination with a second drug, misoprostol. The combination is approved for use up to the 10th week of pregnancy.
Mifepristone is taken first to dilate the cervix and block a hormone needed to maintain the pregnancy. Misoprostol is taken a day or two later, causing contractions to empty the uterus.
More than half of abortions in the U.S. are now done with pills rather than a procedure, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. In rare cases, the combination of drugs can cause excessive bleeding, requiring emergency care.
19 STATE AG WARNS COSTCO, KROGER, OTHER RETAILERS AGAINST SHIPPING ABORTION PILLS TO CUSTOMERS
For more than 20 years, the FDA restricted the distribution of mifepristone to a subset of specialty offices and clinics due to safety concerns.
The agency has repeatedly loosened restrictions and expanded access, boosting demand even as state laws make the pills more difficult for many women.
In late 2021, the agency eliminated the requirement to take the pill by face, saying a new scientific review showed no increase in safety complications if the drug is taken at home. This change also allowed the pill to be prescribed via telehealth and shipped through mail-order pharmacies.
Earlier this year, the FDA further eased restrictions by allowing pharmacies such as Walgreens to begin dispensing the drug after undergoing certification. This includes meeting standards for sending, tracking and confidentially storing prescription information.
Rite Aid Corp. said it is “monitoring the latest federal, state, legal and regulatory developments” and will continue to evaluate its policies.
Some independent pharmacists would like to be certified to dispense the pills, said Andrea Pivarounas, spokeswoman for the National Association of Community Pharmacists. He added that this would be a “personal business decision,” based in part on state law. The association has no details on how many will do so.
OTHER LEGAL MATTERS
In November, an anti-abortion group filed a federal lawsuit in Texas seeking to revoke the approval of mifepristone, arguing that the FDA approved the drug 23 years ago without sufficient safety evidence.
A federal judge could rule soon. If it sides with abortion opponents, mifepristone could potentially be taken off the US market.
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In January, abortion rights advocates filed separate lawsuits challenging abortion pill restrictions imposed in North Carolina and West Virginia.
Legal experts predict years of legal battles over access to the pills.
The Associate Press contributed to this report.