Access to abortion medication has emerged as a major battleground in the legal battle over the procedure in the US.
Calls mounted on Twitter on Friday to boycott Walgreens, one of the largest pharmacy chains in the United States, after it said it will not provide abortion pills in the states of 20 Republican attorneys general the company had told it was at risk breaking the law should it deliver the tablets by mail in their state.
The company announced the decision Thursday after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allowed pharmacies to distribute mifepristone pills, including by mail, provided they were certified to meet safety regulations for the drug.
A spokesperson for Walgreens said the pharmacy chain made its decision in response to a letter from the attorney general. The spokesperson said Walgreens planned to become a certified pharmacy and would only dispense mifepristone in jurisdictions where it was legal to do so.
CVS, another pharmacy chain that also received the letter, did not immediately respond to Reuters news agency’s request for comment. The news website Politico first reported Walgreens’ position on Thursday.
Drug-induced abortion, which accounts for more than half of U.S. abortions, has received increasing attention since the Supreme Court in June repealed the constitutional right to the procedure, allowing conservative states to ban or restrict it.
Mifepristone, used in combination with another drug, misoprostol, is approved for abortion within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.
Abortion is a major theme in American politics. Liberals argue that a ban on the procedure violates medical privacy and women’s rights by forcing them to bear children. Conservatives say restrictions on abortion are meant to save fetuses and preserve human life.
Access to abortion pills has become a new battleground in the legal battle over the procedure in the US. Earlier this year, Biden promised to shield access to the medication, including via telehealth.
“Since the Supreme Court’s decision, Americans have spoken up again and again: Women should be able to make these very personal decisions without political interference,” the US president said in a statement in January.
But Republican-led states have made efforts to make the pill accessible to patients in their countries.
“These state laws reflect our commitment to protect not only the life and dignity of children, but women as well,” the Republican attorney general wrote in their letter (pdf) to Walgreens in February.
A pending federal lawsuit in Texas also challenges the accessibility of the medication.
In South Carolina, a woman was arrested this week and charged with terminating her pregnancy by taking drugs in 2021, the state newspaper reports reported. State law prohibits self-administered abortions. It’s not clear why it took prosecutors so long to press charges against the woman.
Walgreens’ decision on Thursday sparked outrage and boycott calls from many Democrats, but it was welcomed by conservatives.
“Women across the country will be denied their right to access the healthcare they are legally entitled to because of this terrible corporate decision. (Walgreens) needs to reconsider this policy,” Democratic Governor of Illinois JB Pritzker wrote on Twitter.
“To all other pharmacy providers, we stand with you so that you can provide this life-saving care.”