Democratic attorneys general on Thursday urged CVS and Walgreens not to back down from their respective plans to offer mifepristone and misoprostol in retail pharmacies in the wake of threats from GOP-led states.
In a letter, a coalition of 23 state attorneys general said the company’s executives should ignore the threats of legal retaliation from Republican states.
“In a time when access to abortion is under attack—now more than ever in the past 50 years—we stand in full support of pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS becoming FDA-certified to dispense and mail these essential medications and to make them available as broadly as possible,” the Democratic AGs wrote.
The letter was spearheaded by Oregon AG Ellen Rosenblum, California AG Rob Bonta and Washington AG Bob Ferguson.
Earlier this month, 20 Republican state attorneys general also warned that the retail pharmacies plans to distribute abortion pills through the mail are “both unsafe and illegal.”
The dueling letters to Walgreens and CVS are the latest salvo in the battle over access to abortion medication — the most common method in the U.S. to terminate pregnancies.
Mifepristone was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2000, and is used as part of a two-pill regimen to terminate a pregnancy within the first 10 weeks.
Access to abortion pills has become even more of a pressing issue in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade last summer, when dozens of states either entirely banned or severely restricted access to abortion.
The companies last month said they are planning to seek the certification needed to dispense abortion pills in the states where it is legal, following an FDA move that loosened restrictions to allow retail pharmacies to dispense mifepristone.
Until 2021, the medication could only be dispensed in person by a physician. The FDA temporarily lifted that requirement because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Biden administration made the change permanent in December 2021 — paving the way for doctors to prescribe the drug digitally and then mail the pills to patients.
The companies emphasized that they would seek certification to sell the pills only in states where abortion is legal.
Following the announcement, the Republican AGs wrote to executives at both companies warning that they could be violating a law from the 1870s, known as the Comstock Act, if they send abortion pills by mail.
The attorneys general on Thursday pushed back on the claims from Republican states, noting that mifepristone and misoprostol are safe, effective and used for a variety of purposes that comport with federal and state law.
The Justice Department last month said abortion pills can be distributed through the mail, though different state laws limit how residents can access the drugs.
Some states mandate that the pills must be dispensed in-person by the physician who prescribed them, effectively banning people from receiving the medication through the mail.
“Attorneys general in anti-abortion states are trying to scare retail pharmacy chains away from offering these critical medications,” Oregon AG Rosenblum said in a statement. “But, in a time when reproductive health care is under attack, our group of 23 attorneys general strongly believe we should be encouraging companies and providers to offer easily accessible, safe, and confidential healthcare as broadly as possible.”