Despite the fact that pharmacies cannot dispense abortion pills in violation of state law, seventy senators and members of Congress, along with 14 governors, have recently sent letters pressuring major pharmacy chains to start distributing the chemical abortion drug mifepristone due to regulatory changes in January 2023 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowing pharmacies to get certified to dispense the drug. However, attorneys general in 20 states have cautioned those pharmacies that dispensing mifepristone would be illegal.
Since the day Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey were overturned a year ago on June 24, 2022, the Biden administration and pro-abortion officials have scrambled to make the abortion-inducing drug mifepristone, which can only be prescribed in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, as accessible as possible. Subsequently, the FDA changed its regulations on distributing mifepristone allowing retail pharmacies to become vendors of the pill after a certification process. While CVS and Walgreens announced in January 2023 they would begin the process, other pharmacies and retail stores such as Rite Aid, Walmart, Kroger, Costco, Safeway, and Health Mart have yet to start the process. Their delay has prompted federal and state officials to express “great frustration” that pregnant women cannot have unfettered access to kill their unborn children.
Seventeen senators each sent similar letters to the eight pharmacies lecturing them about abortion pill access and questioning their delay in providing that access. In one letter, the senators stated, “We write with great frustration that [your company] has not indicated whether it plans to allow your customers to access mifepristone through your pharmacies.”
The senators specifically emphasized public access to chemical abortion drugs was “vital” and the companies needed to get onboard with distributing them. The letter reads, “…it is critical that your company also provides the strongest possible access to this vital medication…”
Also, 14 state governors sent their own letter to the pharmacies (California, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin). Together, they urged the pharmacies to expand access to chemical abortions without “further politicizing” the abortion drug. Yet, in the same letter, the governors implied withholding their states’ business from the companies insinuating major financial implications if mifepristone was not dispensed.
“Thank you for carefully considering how you can help expand access to [abortion drugs] without further politicizing [it]…As Governors of fourteen states, we not only represent over 141 million residents with a combined economy of over $11 trillion, but we are also direct customers who have partnered with many of your companies for years on a variety of issues and initiatives.”
And in a letter signed by 53 members of Congress, the legislators admonished the pharmacies about their lack of response to the previous letters. The letter stated, “Your pharmacies have been able to start the certification process since January but have not done so despite letters from numerous governors and senators inquiring about your failure to do so…Your continued silence is unacceptable…”
Unlike the legislators and governors, these pharmacies are paying attention to state laws and ongoing litigation in the courts as they delay dispensing the abortion pill. In February 2023, 20 state attorneys general issued letters of their own to the pharmacies saying distribution of chemical abortion drugs would violate the federal Comstock Act as well as many pro-life state laws.
“Federal law expressly prohibits using the mail to send or receive any drug that will ‘be used or applied for producing abortion,’” stated a letter from Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey. “The text could not be clearer…[However] In December, the Biden administration’s Office of Legal Counsel encouraged the U.S. Postal Service to disregard this plain text. But the text, not the Biden administration’s view, is what governs. And the Biden administration’s opinion fails to stand up even to the slightest amount of scrutiny.” Joining Attorney General Bailey with nearly identical letters were attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.
As for state laws, the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute reports there are 29 states that require physicians to administer the pills, while 18 states require abortionists to be present when women take the first dose. Additionally, at least six states have banned distribution of abortion pills by mail (Texas, Arizona, Indiana, Montana, Ohio, and Oklahoma).
The 17 senators, in a letter to Walgreens, expressed “grave concerns” over the company’s yielding to the attorney’s general by not distributing mifepristone.
“While we are well aware of threatening letters you received with regard to the distribution of mifepristone in certain states, the response to those pressures was unacceptable and appeared to yield to these threats…At a time of great confusion about abortion access, your company has done the disservice of adding to it.”
As the abortion landscape continues to change, not only do companies risk liability from breaking the law by dispensing mifepristone, but women and their unborn children alone bear the physical and mental consequences.
According to Missouri’s attorney general letter, abortion pills “are far riskier than surgical abortions.” The letter further stated, “when these heightened complications invariably occur, women suffer those harms at home, away from medical help…[and] mail-order abortion pills also invite the horror of an increase in coerced abortions … because there is no oversight. Outside the regulated medical context, a person can obtain an abortion pill quite easily and then coerce a woman into taking it.”
Despite the government’s push for unfettered access to chemical abortion drugs, whether by pharmacy dispensaries or through the mail, there has been a setback for the abortion agenda. In April 2023, a U.S. district judge ruled that the FDA’s regulatory decisions allowing mifepristone to be prescribed via telemedicine, sent by mail, and dispensed at retail pharmacies were unlawful. The case is currently under appeal and a ruling is expected this summer.
For now, the pharmacies are remaining mostly quiet amid changing state laws and developments in the legal arena.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Pharmacies cannot dispense abortion pills in violation of state law. Chemical abortions harm women physically and emotionally and cruelly kill defenseless children in the womb. History will soundly condemn the modern culture of death.”