Walgreens, the second-largest pharmacy chain in the US, has confirmed that it will not dispense abortion pills in several states where they remain legal, citing an “abundance of caution” amid a shifting policy landscape, threats from state officials, and pressure from anti-abortion activists. The decision has been made even in states where abortion and the medications specifically remain legal, including Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, and Montana. Walgreens has responded to all the officials threatening legal action, assuring them that they will not dispense abortion pills either by mail or at their brick-and-mortar locations in those states. The company is not yet distributing the pills anywhere in the country but is working to obtain certification to do so in some states, though declined to say which.
The decision highlights how widely abortion access can vary state-to-state in a post-Roe America, even in places where there are no bans in effect. The Biden administration moved in January to allow retail pharmacies to dispense the pills, part of a broader push to preserve and expand access to abortion as more states passed bans on the procedure. Following the release of the FDA’s analysis, several chain pharmacies swiftly announced they would participate, but only in states that hadn’t banned or restricted access to the pills. The group of Republican attorneys general, who argue that the Biden administration is misinterpreting the laws around mailing and dispensing abortion pills, also wrote to CVS, Albertsons, Rite Aid, Costco, Walmart, and Kroger demanding they, too, refuse to dispense the medication.
Some independent and online pharmacies say they will seek certification to provide the drugs in these states, but advocates warn that the impact of Walgreens’ decision could significantly limit access. Anti-abortion rights advocacy groups have also mounted pressure campaigns targeting the pharmacies, and this weekend, they plan to picket outside pharmacy locations in dozens of states.