On March 8, California Governor Gavin Newsom’s office announced the state government would stop doing business with Walgreens because of the company's stance on the abortion pill mifepristone. The announcement came after a growing number of people online, including filmmaker Michael Moore, called for a boycott of the company.
The outrage about Walgreens started after letters from a Walgreens executive were posted online saying the company would not provide the abortion pill mifepristone in some states where medication abortion is legal. This has not only sparked protests from women’s rights groups, and others claiming the company was pressured by conservative lawmakers, but has led to confusion about Walgreens’ policy on distributing the pills nationwide.
One tweet with more than four million views says Walgreens decided to stop selling the abortion pill solely in GOP states. Other tweets suggest Walgreens has changed its policy on mifepristone more broadly.
According to Google Trends, people have also been searching if the abortion pill is at Walgreens and where it might be banned.
Does Walgreens currently distribute mifepristone?
No, Walgreens doesn’t currently distribute mifepristone in any state.
WHAT WE FOUND
Mifepristone, along with misoprostol, are two drugs used for medication abortions. Taken in sequence within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, they are FDA-approved for ending a pregnancy.
Previously, doctors had to administer the pills directly to patients, rather than prescribing them through pharmacies, because of a federal requirement. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) removed that requirement in January, allowing pharmacies with a special certification to distribute the pills with a prescription.
Walgreens has applied but has not been approved to distribute mifepristone, and therefore hasn’t started distributing the pills in any state, as some of the viral social media posts claim. Rite Aid and CVS pharmacies have said they have also sought approval to distribute the abortion pills.
The controversy around Walgreens stems from a letter penned on February 1 and signed by 20 state attorneys general warning Walgreens that in several states, abortion pills made available by mail are illegal.
On February 17, Walgreens responded with a letter to each of those 20 states assuring them they would not provide abortion pills in the state. The letter said Walgreens had not received approval to distribute the abortion pill by pharmacy or through mail. It also said: “Walgreens does not intend to dispense mifepristone within your state and does not intend to ship mifepristone into your state from any of our pharmacies. If this approach changes, we will be sure to notify you.”
This language was included in letters to state lawmakers where the abortion pill is legal, including Alaska, Montana, Iowa and Kansas. The Alaska House Coalition, composed of several members of the state’s House of Representatives, wrote their own letter on March 6 to Walgreens informing them the Alaskan constitution makes medication abortion legal in the state.
“No company should willingly eliminate access to life-saving medication in response to the political demands of a few Attorneys General, particularly when the action directly undermines Constitutional rights in our state,” the letter from the Alaskan lawmakers said.
That same day, on March 6, Walgreens issued a statement with an apparent clarification on their position on the abortion pill. The statement contradicts what the letters sent to states had indicated, as it relates to the states where medication abortion is currently legal.
“We want to be very clear about what our position has always been: Walgreens plans to dispense mifepristone in any jurisdiction where it is legally permissible to do so. 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,” the statement said.
In order for Walgreens, or any other pharmacy, to become certified with the FDA, it needs to complete a certification form from the manufacturer of the pills. In this case, it needs to complete the form for Danco Laboratories and GenBioPro, the two manufacturers of mifepristone.
VERIFY reached out to Walgreens for further clarification on where it will be providing the abortion pill. A spokesperson shared the following statement:
"Our position has always been that, once we are certified by the FDA, Walgreens plans to dispense Mifepristone in any jurisdiction where it is legally permissible to do so, including the state of California. 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.”
VERIFY also reached out to the manufacturers, Rite Aid and CVS and did not hear back.