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A few weeks after Republican attorneys general in 21 states sent letters threatening legal action against retail pharmacy chains if they dispensed the abortion pill mifepristone, Walgreens said it would not distribute the pill in those states.
In January, after the Food and Drug Administration said it would allow retail pharmacies to become certified to dispense mifepristone — the tightly regulated medication that is the first pill in the two-drug medication abortion regimen — Walgreens, CVS and other pharmacies said they planned to do so in states where abortion was legal. The American Pharmacists Association said that pharmacies would be very cautious about dispensing in any state where they might risk losing their license or face other penalties.
The decision this week by Walgreens reflects that caution. In four of the states — Alaska, Iowa, Kansas and Montana — abortion is technically still legal, but there are efforts to restrict it that would apply to abortion pills.
“This is a very complex and in flux area of the law, and we are taking that into account as we seek certification,” said a spokesman for Walgreens, Fraser Engerman.
He said that Walgreens told 20 attorneys general, who had jointly signed one letter, and the attorney general of Kansas, who sent a separate letter, that it would not be distributing mifepristone in their states.
The decision does not affect the second pill in the medication abortion regimen, misoprostol, which is used for several medical conditions and has long been available by prescription at retail pharmacies nationwide.
A spokesman for CVS did not immediately respond to a question about whether the company had also decided not to dispense mifepristone in those 21 states, but in January, a spokeswoman said, “We plan to seek certification to dispense mifepristone where legally permissible.”
Politico reported the Walgreens decision on Thursday night. The chain’s decision not to dispense pills in Kansas was announced last month.