New York Governor Kathy Hochul and Attorney General Letitia James sent a letter pressuring pharmacies to keep selling abortion pills.
In the letter, addressed to the CEOs of Walgreens, Rite Aid, and CVS, Hochul and James told the companies not to give in to pressure from Republican states to stop selling the abortifacient drug mifepristone. But in doing so, the two officials put pressure on the three companies to keep selling the drug in their state.
“Recent national events have spotlighted the critical role that pharmacies play in providing access to essential health care, including reproductive health care,” Hochul and James wrote. “That is why we write to you today to ask that you commit to making medication abortion available in your retail and mail-order pharmacies across New York State.”
The two officials then blasted a campaign by multiple states’ Attorneys General to stop pharmacies from selling abortion pills. The campaign began in January, when 22 Republican Attorneys General sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf asking the agency to reverse a December 2022 decision that would permanently allow pharmacies to dispense mifepristone by mail. The move clashes with laws in at least 18 states which require that abortifacient drugs can only be dispensed in the presence of a licensed physician, which effectively bans telemedicine for prescribing a medication abortion.
Then in February, 20 Attorneys General sent a letter to Walgreens and other pharmacy chains including CVS, Walmart, and Costco, warning them that they could be in violation of their respective state laws if they dispense abortion drugs. In response, Walgreens said it would not dispense abortion pills either by mail or at locations in 21 states, including Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, and Montana, where abortion drugs are still legal.
Hochul and James derided the pressure campaign, claiming it was “based on a restrictive interpretation of the law and misrepresentation of the facts. We urge you not to allow these tactics to intimidate you, and to commit to making this critical medication available as widely as possible, based on a fair and unbiased interpretation of state and federal law,” they wrote.
Pointing out that abortion is legal in New York, including medication abortions using mifepristone, Hochul and James then asked the companies two questions:
- “Will you commit to dispense mifepristone to patients with a doctor’s prescription at all FDA certified pharmacy locations in the State of New York? If not, what is the legal basis for this decision?”
- “Will you commit to dispense mifepristone via mail with a doctor’s prescription to patients in the State of New York? If not, what is the legal basis for this decision?”
“New Yorkers urgently need clarity on these questions, as reproductive rights are curtailed and undermined across the nation,” the two officials concluded.
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The pressure from Hochul and James in New York comes after California Governor Gavin Newsom said his state would stop doing business with Walgreens in response to its decision to stop selling abortion pills. “California won’t be doing business with [Walgreens] — or any company that cowers to the extremists and puts women’s lives at risk,” Newsom tweeted on Tuesday. “We’re done.”
A spokesperson for Newsom further noted that “all relationships” between Walgreens and California are under review, according to Reuters.