The White House on Friday expressed regret at US pharmacy giant Walgreens’ decision to not distribute abortion pills in some 20 states after “dangerous” pressure from anti-abortion officials.
“Elected officials targeting pharmacies and their ability to provide women with access to safe, effective and FDA-approved medication is dangerous and just unacceptable,” said White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre.
The comments came following confirmation from Walgreens that it wouldn’t sell the pill in states represented by 20 Republican attorneys general who advised Walgreens in a February 1 letter that the pill was illegal under state laws.
The battle over the so-called “abortion pills” has become a focal point in states around the country following the Supreme Court’s June decision outlawing a national right to abortion.
Walgreens does “not intend to dispense mifepristone in their respective states,” Fraser Engerman, Walgreens senior director for external relations, said in an email to AFP.
“We intend to be a certified pharmacy and will distribute mifepristone only in those jurisdictions where it is legal and operationally feasible.”
A medication-induced abortion, also known as medical abortion, involves taking two different drugs over the course of one or two days.
The first (mifepristone) blocks the pregnancy, and the second (misoprostol) provokes bleeding to empty the uterus.
Medication abortions account for 54 percent of all abortions in the United States, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health policy and research group, with mifepristone approved in the United States up to 10 weeks of pregnancy.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the pills could be provided only in person and in specific locales, notably abortion clinics.
But the Food and Drug Administration shifted ground during the pandemic, lifting the requirement for in-person delivery of mifepristone in December 2021 and announcing in January that retail pharmacies were permitted to sell abortion pills.
Around 15 US states have imposed restrictions on abortion since the Supreme Court ruling and have banned sales of the abortion pill.
But the group of states affected by the Walgreens policy includes some states where abortion is still legal, including Kansas, where voters in August 2022 decisively voted down an amendment to the state constitution declaring that there was no right to abortion in Kansas.
Kansas was not among the original 20 states in the February 1 letter, but Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach sent a subsequent letter to Walgreens on February 6 calling the mail-order delivery of the pills “illegal,” adding “Kansas will not hesitate to enforce the law.”
Kobach posted Walgreens’ February 17 response in which the drugstore chain told Kobach it “does not intend to dispense mifepristone within your state.”
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