California Will No Longer Work with Retail Pharmacy Walgreens

By Shuxuan Zhong


SACRAMENTO, CA – California Governor Gavin Newsom said on March 6, 2023, that California will no longer be working with the retail pharmacy Walgreens. This is because the U.S. company has elected not to dispense abortion pills in 20 Republican-led states, including some where abortion is still legal. 


However, the reason Walgreens made this decision is that, on March 4, 2023, 20 Republican state attorney generals issued a letter threatening legal action. In response, Walgreens wrote a letter to Kansas’ attorney general, noting “Walgreens does not intend to dispense Mifepristone within your state.”


What is the pill mifepristone? Mifepristone, also known as RU-486, is a medication used to terminate early pregnancies. Medical abortion––not surgery––is the most common way people terminate pregnancies, especially within the first trimester when most miscarriages occur. When used with another tablet called misoprostol, it can end a pregnancy. Mifepristone was first approved by the FDA about 23 years ago and is safe when used as directed. According to the FDA, abortion pills should not be taken to terminate a pregnancy if it has been more than 70 days since the first day of the last menstrual period.


The benefit of this drug is that it works in about 95 percent of pregnancies (up to 9 weeks) and does not require further treatment. In addition, it does not need to be performed in a hospital or during day surgery, so no surgeon, anesthetist, or other medical personnel is required to oversee the process. This makes it a suitable option for people in remote areas, so long as they have access to urgent care. However, this drug also has risks. It may not work for some people, so repeated medications may be required or surgical abortion may be required. Some people are also not suitable for this medicine, such as people with pregnancy outside the uterus, people with problems with glands near the kidneys, and people on certain long-term medications.


The legality of abortion has been part of much public discourse. Several conservative-led states have warned of legal repercussions if retail pharmacies, including Walgreens and CVS, sell abortion pills by mail in those states. “We emphasize that it is our responsibility as State Attorneys General to uphold the law and protect the health, safety, and well-being of women and unborn children in our states” the Feb. 1 letter read. “Part of that responsibility includes ensuring that companies like yours are fully informed of the law so that harm does not come to our citizens.” The letter to Walgreens came from Missouri Republican Attorney General Andrew Bailey and was signed by 19 other states, including Florida, Alabama, and South Carolina. Other attorney generals signed in Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma states, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.


Walgreens ultimately chose to stop selling the drug in certain Republican-led states. On March 7, 2023, Gavin Newsom tweeted, “California won’t be doing business with Walgreens or any company that cowers to the extremists and puts women’s lives at risk. We are done.” Walgreens’ response: “From the outset, we have made our intentions clear to become a certified pharmacy to distribute Mifepristone wherever legally possible to do so.”

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