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Walgreens Won't Distribute Abortion Pills in Republican-Controlled States

Abortion pills are all the rage now, especially since the FDA has ruled that retail pharmacies can distribute them to anyone with a valid prescription (after doing some paperwork). That doesn't mean they will, however. Walgreens, the nation's second largest pharmacy chain, has caved to anti-abortion activists and decided not to sell them in states where the attorney general doesn't want them sold, even though they are legal in federal law and states do not have the right to pick and choose which FDA-approved drugs they will allow to be sold. This means that Walgreens won't sell the pills, either in person or by mail, in about 20 states, even in those states where abortion is legal. A profile in courage this is not. It will sell them in states where the AG has no objection, which in practice means the blue states.

The Republican AGs who got Walgreens to drop the pills are actively working on Albertsons, Costco, CVS, Kroger, Rite Aid, and Walmart to get them to stop as well. Some small independent pharmacies are seeking certification to sell the pills, though. Elizabeth Nash, a state policy expert at the Guttmacher Institute, said that Walgreens' decision could especially affect people in rural areas, many of whom are not near multiple pharmacies, giving them little choice of which one to use.

The decision affects only the sale of mifepristone but not misoprostol, which has long been allowed with no restrictions. However, misoprostol is only about 80% effective, whereas mifepristone is almost completely effective.

Walgreens is not out of the woods on this, however. Pro-choice groups are calling for a boycott of Walgreens to protest its decision. In the past, anti-abortion groups picketed pharmacies that sold mifepristone. In the future, pro-choice groups could be doing the picketing. (V)

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