The day after Walgreens announced it would no longer sell abortion pills by mail in 20 conservative-led states, the White House on Friday called it “dangerous and unacceptable” for Republicans to target pharmacies for offering them.
Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre did not explicitly weigh in on Walgreens’s move, but more broadly pushed back on the effort among Republican attorneys general to threaten consequences for the distribution of FDA-approved abortion medication.
“Elected officials targeting pharmacies and their ability to provide women with safe, effective and FDA-approved medication is dangerous and just unacceptable,” Jean-Pierre said.
“This is all part of a continued effort by anti-abortion extremists who want to use this arcane law to impose a backdoor ban on abortion,” she continued. “The administration will continue to stand by the FDA’s expert judgment in approving and regulating medications. And in the face of barriers to access and concerns about safety of patients, healthcare providers and pharmacists, we will continue to support access to this critical medication within the limits of the law.”
Walgreens, the country’s second-largest pharmacy chain, announced late Thursday that it will not provide abortion pills in several states after roughly two dozen Republican attorneys general wrote to the company last month threatening legal action if the pharmacy continued to distribute the medication.
The GOP attorneys general argued that federal law prohibits anyone from using the mail to send or receive any drug that will “be used or applied for producing abortion,” referring to the Comstock Act of 1873.
The Justice Department issued a legal opinion earlier this year stating that mailing abortion drugs mifepristone and misoprostol does not violate the Comstock Act. The department said the U.S. Postal Service is legally allowed to deliver prescription abortion drugs even in states that have curtailed access to abortion.
Among the states affected are Iowa, Alaska, Arkansas, Alabama, South Dakota, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Ohio, South Carolina and Texas. Most of those states already have restrictive abortion laws on the books.
The Walgreens decision is the latest development in an ongoing fight over access to abortion that has been reshaped in the wake of last summer’s Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
Several GOP-led states have sought to further restrict abortion access in the time since, while the Biden administration has issued executive orders and legal opinions seeking to protect women’s access to abortion pills and their ability to travel across state lines for the procedure.