NEW YORK — Uncertainty continued to swirl around the legality of dispensing the “abortion pill” mifepristone.
The threat to criminalize the drug’s distribution led Walgreens to say it would not dispense the pill in 21 states in which Republican attorneys general have threatened legal action over it. Mifepristone was approved for sale in the U.S. 20 years ago by the Food and Drug Administration.
Walgreens issued a statement saying that it would dispense the drug “in any jurisdiction where it is legal to do so.”
The retailer said, “Once we are certified by the FDA, we will dispense this medication consistent with federal and state laws. Providing legally approved medications to patients is what pharmacies do, and is rooted in our commitment to the communities in which we operate.”
In a Democratic backlash, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state will not renew a $54 million contract for Walgreens to provide specialty drugs to prisons. “California is on track to be the fourth-largest economy in the world and we will leverage our market power to defend the right to choose,” he said.
Meanwhile, a federal judge in Texas was expected to issue a ruling in a case challenging the FDA’s approval of mifepristone. If Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk orders the pill taken off the market, women might be unable to obtain it in Republican states where abortion is still legal.
For its part, Rite Aid issued a statement saying that it is monitoring the latest federal, state, legal and regulatory developments. “We will continue to evaluate the company’s ability to dispense mifepristone in accordance with those developments,” the company said.
CVS has not commented publicly on the threat of legal action by the Republican attorneys general.
In January, Walgreens and CVS said they would begin the certification process under a new FDA regulation to allow retail pharmacies for the first time to offer mifepristone — the first of two pills used as the safest and most effective medication abortion regimen.
The new regulation would allow the retailers to sell the pills in stores and by mail to customers with a prescription from a certified health care provider.
Neither chain offered specifics about when they expected to begin selling the pills, or whether they planned to offer them via mail order as well as in stores.
As medication abortion has become more mainstream, Walgreens and CVS have moved to enter the market for mifepristone and misoprostol (the second drug in the two-drug regimen preferred by many women).
The drugs remain readily available in states where abortion is legal.
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