Women can be prosecuted for taking abortion pills in Alabama, the state’s top law enforcement official said Tuesday following the federal government’s recent update to increase access to the drugs.
Attorney General Steve Marshall made the comments despite the state’s Human Life Protection Act that criminalizes abortion providers and prevents prosecution against women who have abortions.
“The Human Life Protection Act targets abortion providers, exempting women ‘upon whom an abortion is performed or attempted to be performed’ from liability under the law,” Marshall said in a statement to AL.com. “It does not provide an across-the-board exemption from all criminal laws, including the chemical-endangerment law—which the Alabama Supreme Court has affirmed and reaffirmed protects unborn children.”
The statement followed an update last week by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stating that major pharmacy chains would be permitted to provide two medications, mifepristone and misoprostol, prescribed for medical abortions.
“Mifeprex and its generic Mifepristone Tablets, 200 mg, are available under a single, shared system risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (REMS), known as the Mifepristone REMS Program, which sets forth the requirements that must be followed for mifepristone for medical termination of pregnancy through ten weeks gestation,” the FDA shared in last week’s update.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion research organization, medication abortion accounted for 54% of U.S. abortions in 2020. That percentage will likely grow even more as retail pharmacies provide abortion pills.
CVS and Walgreens, the nation’s two largest pharmacy franchises, stated that they plan to participate in the new program from the FDA.
“We are working through the registration, necessary training of our pharmacists, as well as evaluating our pharmacy network in terms of where we normally dispense products that have extra FDA requirements and will dispense these consistent with federal and state laws,” a Walgreens spokesperson told Axios following the FDA’s change.
A CVS spokesperson confirmed to the outlet that the company would seek certification to provide abortion medications.
On January 3, California-based online pharmacy HoneyBee became the first company officially certified to dispense the medications under the FDA’s new guidelines.
“Doing this really important work has meant a lot to us at HoneyBee, and I’m excited for the rest of the pharmacy community to be able to do this as well,” Jessica Nouhavandi, co-founder of HoneyBee, told Bloomberg Law.
In addition, the Justice Department recently issued a legal opinion that the U.S. Postal Service can deliver abortion pills in states that have banned or restricted abortion, stating “the mere mailing of such drugs to a particular jurisdiction is an insufficient basis for concluding that the sender intends them to be used unlawfully.”
Marshall’s statement pushed back on the words from the Justice Department, arguing that the opinion does not change Alabama’s laws.
“Elective abortion — including abortion pills — is illegal in Alabama. Nothing about the Justice Department’s guidance changes that,” he said. “Anyone who remotely prescribes abortion pills in Alabama does so at their own peril: I will vigorously enforce Alabama law to protect unborn life.”
The Guttmacher Institute’s research shows that 18 states require the medical professional providing a medication abortion to be physically present when the drug is administered, effectively prohibiting telemedicine to prescribe medication for abortion.