Abortion Just Got Even More Limited, Thanks to Missouri AG

Walgreens buckled under pressure from Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey

Mar 3, 2023 at 2:10 pm
click to enlarge Mifepristone: Public Enemy No. 1 to Andrew Bailey - Flickr / Robin Marty
Mifepristone: Public Enemy No. 1 to Andrew Bailey

Walgreens won’t dispense abortion pills by mail to 20 conservative states — including Missouri. 

The country’s second-largest pharmacy announced Thursday that it won’t sell mifepristone, the first in a two-drug regimen for medication abortions, after nearly two dozen attorneys general warned Walgreens it could face legal action if it continued to sell abortion pills by mail. 

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey led the charge in a February letter to Walgreens and CVS. In a letter co-signed by 19 other attorneys general, Bailey argued distribution of abortion pills violated federal law that prohibits sending or receiving any drug via mail.

The letter did not specify what retribution states could face, but Bailey told The Associated Press he will “enforce the [federal] laws as written.”

Bailey’s threat was a direct retaliation against the Biden administration’s endorsement of medication abortion in January. A memorandum from the Biden administration ensured doctors could prescribe and dispense the medication across the nation.

While Walgreens was not distributing mifepristone in any state before the company’s decision was made, it intended to do so after the Food and Drug Administration dropped a rule in January that prevented retail drug stores from carrying mifepristone, Politico reports. Previously, the agency required patients to obtain abortion pills in-person from certified health-care providers. 

Walgreens’ compliance with the attorneys general’s threat means it won’t dispense mifepristone in several states where abortion remains legal after the pharmacy receives certification. These states include Kansas, Iowa, Montana and Alaska. Abortions are banned in Missouri except in cases of unspecified medical emergencies.

Bailey continued his crusade against abortion pills on Wednesday and again led a coalition of 19 other attorneys general urging five more pharmacies not to distribute abortion pills. They wrote to Rite Aid, Albertsons, Costco, Kroger and Walmart. Only one of these companies, Rite Aid, actually distributes abortion pills.

“We write to advise you of why the FDA’s invitation is unlawful and risky and to urge you to continue rejecting it,” the attorneys general wrote to the four “compliant” companies. 

Bailey has also filed an amicus brief in a lawsuit that would remove access to abortion bills throughout the United States. 

If successful, the suit, filed in Texas by a consortium of anti-abortion groups, would reverse FDA approval of abortion pills — potentially removing access to all medication abortion. Medication abortions account for over half of all abortions, according to abortion policy and research organization Guttmacher Institute. 

The fate of the suit is in the hands of a Trump-appointed judge, who is expected to come to a decision soon.

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