Walgreens announced that it won’t sell abortion pills in states where it is banned or where the legality of the pills remains in question.
The decision comes after nearly two dozen Republican Attorneys General, led by Missouri AG Andrew Bailey, cautioned the pharmacy chain that continued distribution of the abortive drugs could result in legal action, reports Politico.
The letter was a response to the Biden administration’s ongoing effort to promote on-demand abortion after the Supreme Court reversed the 50-year-old Roe v. Wade decision last year and remanded abortion law back to states.
In the Feb. 1 letter, the AGs reminded the company that under years-old federal law, selling abortion drugs by mail is a crime. Even though the Biden administration recently directed the US Post Office to disregard this law, Walgreens said it won’t sell abortion pills at retail locations or by mail.
“Although many people are unfamiliar with this statute because it has not been amended in a few decades, the text could not be clearer: ‘every article or thing designed, adapted, or intended for producing abortion … shall not be conveyed in the mails,’” said the text of the letter.
The letter called Biden’s interpretation of the law “bizarre” and reminded the company that courts tend to side with the plain meaning of statutes when criminal activity is defined.
One such abortion drug, mifepristone, also known as the morning-after pill, is used to terminate pregnancies up to the tenth week by blocking the production of progesterone.
“We intend to be a certified pharmacy and will distribute mifepristone only in those jurisdictions where it is legal and operationally feasible,” said a Walgreens spokesman, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Journal said that in four states the sale of mifepristone is illegal and in the others there are open legal questions remaining to be settled.
Walgreens said it will move to become certified under federal law to dispense the drug under prescription from a doctor.
Critics of mifepristone have pointed out that its proponents have been trying to make it an over-the-counter drug, adding that its relative convenience compared to surgical abortion makes it easier to abuse.
“Clearly, over-the-counter access to mifepristone would make it easier for sex traffickers and sexual predators to instigate and oversee the coerced abortions of their victims while eliminating any risk that crimes might be revealed and reported by health care providers,” said the Charlotte Lozier Institute.
The Institute says that 64% of American women who have acknowledged having an abortion felt pressured to do so.
“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,” said Bailey 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.”
Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach added that he was “grateful that Walgreens responded quickly and reasonably and intends to comply with the relevant laws.”
Similar letters went to other large pharmacy chains including CVS Health Corp., the Journal reports.