Walgreens, the second-largest pharmacy chain in the US, has made headlines after confirming that it will not dispense abortion pills in certain states. Despite the drugs remaining legal in some states, Walgreens will not be providing them in locations including Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, and Montana, amongst others. The move is thought to be a response to pressure from anti-abortion activists and threats from Republican state attorneys general, who wrote to Walgreens in February, warning of legal action if the company began distributing the pills.
The decision highlights the complexities of abortion access in America, where state-to-state variations can result in differences in availability, even in places where there are no bans in effect. In this case, Walgreens’ decision will impact patients in rural areas where pharmacies may be more accessible than medical providers.
The pharmacy’s decision is part of a broader conversation around access to abortion, which has been a hot topic under the Biden administration. The administration moved in January to allow retail pharmacies to dispense abortion pills, following a multi-year analysis by the FDA that found the pills to be safe and effective. However, the decision is being challenged by anti-abortion groups, who are fighting to restrict access to the pills.
The move by Walgreens has been met with mixed reactions. Anti-abortion groups have praised the decision, while advocates for abortion rights have expressed concern over the impact it will have on access to care. Elizabeth Nash, a state policy expert with the abortion-rights Guttmacher Institute, commented, “They’re denying people agency over their lives…so these pharmacies play an outsized role in patient health and access to healthcare.”
The decision by Walgreens is just one example of the ongoing battle over access to abortion in America, highlighting the tensions between state and federal laws and the role of corporations in providing healthcare services.