Walgreens’ decision to not distribute abortion pills in 20 states sets harmful precedent


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Samantha Sollitto

Walgreens’ decision to not sell abortion pills in many states where they remain legal due to political backlash and anti-abortion activists is an act of cowardice and can potentially harm women in the long run. 

The Biden Administration announced in January that retail pharmacies in states where abortion is legal would be able to sell mifepristone, the first of two drugs in the medical abortion process. 

This new rule is meant to counteract post-Roe era restrictions by boosting access to pills only in states where they’re legal, though patients in states with bans could also benefit from it by crossing state lines to pick up the drugs from a pharmacy.  

Walgreens has since announced that it will not distribute abortion medication in 20 states following a Feb. 1 letter from two dozen Republican state attorneys that threatened legal action if the pharmacy began to distribute the pills in those states.

“When we’re thinking about states that have a lot of their population in rural areas, it’s much more likely that a pharmacy is nearby than a provider’s office, so these pharmacies play an outsized role in patient health and access to health care,” Elizabeth Nash, a state policy expert with the abortion-rights Guttmacher Institute, told Politico

Medication abortion now account for most abortions obtained in the United States because of the minimally invasive nature of the procedure. By reducing access to this option, Walgreens has made a choice that will infringe on millions of women’s ability to control their reproductive fate. 

The nation’s second-largest pharmacy chain also set a harmful precedent for its competitors by giving in to anti-abortion activists and Republican officials. 

The pharmacy’s decision is a cowardly way of appeasing anti-abortion activists without outwardly supporting them. By restricting access to the pill, the pharmacy is automatically on the side of those who are against abortion. 

Even worse, Walgreens’ list contains states — including Alaska, Iowa, Kansas and Montana — where abortion and/or abortion medication is still legal.  

Each state has taken a different stance on abortion in a post-Roe America. In some states — including Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Missouri — abortion is banned with no exceptions for rape or incest. 

Whereas in other states — such as New York and California — the right to an abortion has been enshrined into state law. 

In states where it is legal, though, women should have the right of being able to go to Walgreens to receive the pill and help pass the pregnancy.

The pharmacy has inadvertently taken away a woman’s right to choose, once more. Without access to medication abortion, many women could face serious health complications. 

Pro-life rhetoric often dictates that women receive abortions as an alternative to contraception. However, there are many instances where women need to have an abortion to save their life or because the baby wouldn’t survive birth. 

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says “induced abortion is an essential component of women’s health care.” 

Pregnancy complications, including placental abruption, internal bleeding and cardiac or renal conditions, may be so severe that abortion is the only means of saving a woman’s life. 

Thus, the Supreme Court’s decision is not about being pro-life and it never was. The main goal is stripping women of their autonomy. Being pro-choice is not being pro-abortion, but it is being in support of any woman choosing what she does with her body. 

If the Supreme Court and those in support of this decision were truly pro-life, they would work harder to keep children in schools safe or to improve the quality of life for children in foster care.

Pro-lifers have the choice not to have an abortion, and they also have the choice not to buy the pill from Walgreens. Yet, Republican officials and anti-abortion activists have successfully taken away the opposite this choice for everyone else.

States such as California are now aiming to “cut ties” with the pharmacy over their decision to not distribute the pills. If other states follow suit, Walgreens could take a major financial hit in the long run. 

Mifepristone was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which deemed it “safe to use without a doctor’s visit.” Yet an ongoing lawsuit in Texas might just reverse this ruling, as lawmakers decide whether the pill should be dispensed nationwide. 

The power held by the threats posed by Republican officials toward Walgreens and other pharmacies is only one consequence of the overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022. 

“If FDA approval of mifepristone is revoked, 64.5 million women of reproductive age in the U.S. would lose access to medication abortion care, an exponential increase in harm overnight,” nonprofit NARAL said in a statement in February, pointing to internal research.