News Articles

Walgreens’ action on abortion pill falls short, ERLC says


NASHVILLE (BP) – Walgreens’ decision not to dispense abortion pills in nearly half of the 50 states is an inadequate response to concerns about the drug, according to the Southern Baptist Convention’s ethics entity.

Walgreens, the country’s second-largest pharmacy chain, has informed the attorneys general of more than 20 states it will not sell the abortion drug in retail stores or by mail in their states, Politico reported Thursday (March 2). This includes some states where abortion generally and the drug particularly are legal, according to the report.

The pharmacy chain said it is not distributing abortion pills anywhere in the United States at this time but is seeking federal certification to sell them in some unspecified states, according to Politico.

“This is far short of what is needed by, and what we’ve asked of, Walgreens, which is to not go down this path at all – not just in some 20 states but every state,” said Hannah Daniel, policy manager for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).

Walgreens joined CVS, the country’s largest pharmacy chain, in announcing they would carry and dispense mifepristone after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) changed its rules in early January to permit its sale by retail pharmacies. Mifepristone is the first drug in a two-step process commonly referred to as medical or chemical abortion.

Attorneys general in 20 states warned Walgreens and CVS in early February they would violate the law if they sell abortion pills through the mail. Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach issued a similar warning in a separate letter.

ERLC President Brent Leatherwood urged the chief executive officers of Walgreens and CVS in an early January letter to rescind their decisions to dispense the abortion pill.

“The abortion pill not only takes the life of a preborn child; it also poses serious health risks to women who generally take them with little medical supervision and, at times, far from any available emergency medical care,” Daniel told Baptist Press in written comments.

“The FDA’s decision to allow these drugs to be dispensed in local pharmacies exacerbates these horrific consequences while also threatening the consciences of pharmacy employees who do not want to participate in such a scheme for deeply held moral or religious beliefs,” she said.

Walgreens’ assurances to the attorneys general came as the country awaits a decision by a federal judge in Texas regarding a challenge to the FDA’s approval of mifepristone more than two decades ago. Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Amarillo could rule the abortion pill must be pulled off the market.

The states in which Walgreens said it would not dispense abortion pills include at least four, according to Politico, in which the drug is currently legal: Alaska, Iowa, Kansas and Montana.

“There is currently complexity around this issue in Kansas and elsewhere,” said Fraser Engerman, Walgreens’ senior director of external relations, according to Politico.

The coalition of attorneys general urged not only Walgreens and CVS but Albertsons, Costco, Kroger, Rite Aid and Walmart not to dispense abortion pills. The companies other than Walgreens did not reply immediately to its requests about their plans for the states in question, Politico reported.

In their letters to Walgreens and CVS, the attorneys general rejected a December opinion by the Department of Justice (DOJ) that the U.S. Postal Service can legally deliver abortion drugs. Federal law, however, “expressly prohibits using the mail to send or receive any drug that will ‘be used or applied for producing abortion,’” the 20 attorneys general said.

The letter from the 20 attorneys general to Walgreens and CVS came a week after Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., led more than 40 members of Congress in writing U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to denounce the DOJ’s memorandum. The ERLC joined a dozen other pro-life organizations in endorsing the congressional letter.

The decisions by the FDA and the DOJ are part of a series of actions taken by President Biden and his administration in an effort to counteract the Supreme Court’s June 2022 reversal of the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. The high court returned abortion policy to the states by overturning Roe, which legalized abortion throughout the country.

Mifepristone, often known as RU 486 and authorized by the FDA under President Clinton in 2000, causes the lining of the uterus to release the embryonic child, resulting in his or her death. It is approved for use in the first 10 weeks of gestation. Misoprostol, a drug approved by the FDA to treat ulcers, is typically taken one to two days later and causes the uterus to contract, expelling the body.

Medical/chemical procedures as a percentage of all abortions have increased dramatically the last two decades. They rose between 2001 and 2020 from 5 percent of all abortions to 53 percent, the Guttmacher Institute reported Dec. 1.

On its website, the FDA said mifepristone is safe when used according to its guidelines in the first 10 weeks of gestation. It admitted, however, the deaths of 28 women who took mifepristone had been reported since 2000. The deaths and other “adverse events” could not “with certainty be causally attributed” to mifepristone, according to the FDA.

The Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI) – a pro-life, research organization – reported in 2021, however, a new study it conducted found “chemical abortion is consistently and progressively associated with more postabortion [emergency room] visit morbidity than surgical abortion.” An analysis of Medicaid claims information from 17 states that pay for abortions showed the “rate of abortion related ER visits following a chemical abortion increased 507%” between 2002 and 2015, according to CLI.

BP did not receive a reply from Walgreens before deadline to its request for information.