Calls to boycott Walgreens increased online on Friday after America’s second-largest drugstore said it will not distribute mifepristone, a drug that is part of the most common method of abortion in the country, in some states where the abortion remains legal.
After the Biden Administration announced in January that pharmacies can become certified to distribute mifepristone for the first time, Walgreens and the largest pharmacy chain, CVS Health, said they would seek certification to dispense the pill. But now Walgreens is learning that there may be serious consequences to their decision, as 20 Republican Attorneys General sent a letter to the company threatening it with legal action if it distributed the drug in their states, including some where abortion isn’t banned.
On Feb 17, in response to the letter, Walgreens wrote to Kris W. Kobach, the Attorney General of Kansas, that the company: “does not intend to dispense Mifepristone within your state and does not intend to ship Mifepristone into your state from any of our pharmacies. If this approach changes, we will be sure to notify you.” In 2022, Kansas voters rejected a constitutional amendment that would have allowed the legislature to ban abortion.
Given that barriers to abortion are on the rise, the decision is particularly concerning, says Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, an OB-GYN and CEO of the abortion rights group Power to Decide. Pharmacies can be a crucial access point to mifepristone, especially in rural areas where healthcare is inaccessible. “It’s not good public health practice, it’s not good medicine, to not make available something that we know is safe, and effective, and commonly utilized,” she says.
McDonald-Mosley says that she’s concerned that patients seeking abortions, suffering miscarriages or who need the drug for other reasons, could be at an increased health risk if they do not have access to mifepristone, and if they have to rely on a treatment that is less effective. “If you decrease effectiveness, even a small amount, but apply that to a large number of people in the population, there are absolutely going to be people who suffer consequences,” says McDonald-Mosley. “There could be potentially more incomplete abortions, people dealing with hemorrhages or other consequences.”
On Twitter, the response to the decision was divided between supporters and advocates of abortion access. Lila Rose, the CEO of the anti-abortion rights organization Live Action, hailed the decision as a victory. “After weeks of the pro-life movement protesting, Walgreens is backing down from distributing the lethal abortion pill in several states. Drugs that kill children don’t belong in neighborhood pharmacies. Keep the pressure on!” she wrote.
But pro-choice activists had their own response. By Friday morning #BoycottWalgreens was trending on Twitter in response to Walgreens’ announcement. “Losing money is the only thing they understand as a threat to their business, not principles,” tweeted user Judi Cunningham.
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