Red states warn Walgreens, CVS against mailing abortion pills
Missouri’s new attorney general, leading a coalition of conservative states, on Wednesday sent a warning letter to pharmacy giants Walgreens and CVS saying that a plan to mail abortion pills is both illegal and unsafe.
The letters are in response to the Biden administration’s changes to federal rules designed to give women seeking an abortion more options in the wake of Roe v. Wade being overturned. The biggest change approved in January allowed women to receive abortion pills through the mail. Previously, they had been required to physically pick them up at pharmacies.
Missouri's Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey, on behalf of 20 states, wrote the states “reject the Biden administration’s bizarre interpretation, and we expect courts will as well.”
Bailey was sworn into office in January after being appointed by Republican Governor Mike Parson to fill the office vacated by Eric Schmitt, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in November.
“As Attorney General, it is my responsibility to enforce the laws as written, and that includes enforcing the very laws that protect Missouri’s women and unborn children,” Bailey said in a statement. “My Office is doing everything in its power to inform these companies of the law, with the promise that we will use every tool at our disposal to uphold the law if broken.”
Walgreens, in a statement, said it is not currently dispensing mifepristone, which is also known as the abortion pill RU-486.
“We intend to become a certified pharmacy under the program, however we fully understand that we may not be able to dispense mifepristone in all locations if we are certified under the program,” Walgreens said.
CVS did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
The nearly identical letters to Walgreens and CVS state that federal law “expressly prohibits using the mail to send or receive any drug that will ‘be used or applied for producing abortion.’”
It further states that “anyone who ‘knowingly takes any such thing from the mails for the purpose of circulating’ is guilty of a federal crime. Obviously, a federal criminal law—especially one that is, as here, enforceable through a private right of action—deserves serious contemplation.”
The letters state that the Biden administration has 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.”
The AGs said their state laws prohibiting the mailing of abortion pills reflect their commitment to protecting lives and the dignity of both children and women. They note that the abortion pills are 5.96 times as likely to result in complications in first trimester abortions than surgical methods. These complications by nature occur in the home, away from a medical facility.
“And finally, mail-order abortion pills also invite the horror of an increase in coerced abortions,” the letters state. “When abortion drugs are mailed or consumed outside a regulated medical facility, the risk of coercion is much higher—indeed, guaranteed—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.”
Planned Parenthood of America, when contacted for a reaction, referred to a statement made last month in response to the Biden Administration's rule change claiming mifepristone is safe and effective.
"Being able to access your prescribed medication abortion through the mail or to pick it up in person from a pharmacy like any other prescription is a game changer for people trying to access basic health care," Alexis McGill Johnson, president & CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement at the time. "While we’re still fighting against bans and restrictions on medication abortion at the state level, it’s critical that people in states where abortion is legal have access to care."
Missouri was joined by the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.