Newsom to shut Walgreens out of California state business following abortion pill decision

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Gregory Krieg and Nathaniel Meyersohn | Contributed

California will cease all its business with Walgreens, the retail drugstore chain, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Monday, days after the company announced it would not dispense abortion medication in 21 Republican-dominated states.

“California won’t be doing business with @walgreens – or any company that cowers to the extremists and puts women’s lives at risk,” the Democratic governor tweeted. “We’re done.”

Newsom’s pushback came at an already fraught time for the future of medication abortion, which is used in more than half of all procedures nationwide, as a Texas judge weighs issuing a ban on Mifepristone, the first pill in a two-drug abortion regimen. Walgreens had responded to legal pressure from Republican attorneys general in 21 states – including a handful where abortion remains legal – in deciding to partially halt its efforts to sell the drug.

“We intend to be a certified pharmacy and will distribute Mifepristone only in those jurisdictions where it is legal and operationally feasible,” the company said last week in a statement.

Walgreens declined to comment on Newsom’s tweet.

The clash between Newsom and Walgreens, a massive chain with thousands of stores around the country, marks the latest round of fallout following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The ruling, handed down in June of last year, shook up national politics ahead of the 2022 midterms – with many Democrats crediting the backlash for helping their candidates in tough, swing state and seat races – and complicated relationships between political and business leaders.

It’s not clear exactly how California will seek to cut ties with Walgreens.

The state is currently “reviewing all relationships between Walgreens and the state,” said Newsom spokesman Brandon Richards. He also accused the company of giving in to “right wing bullies.”

Late last week, Democratic California state Attorney General Rob Bonta issued a statement slamming Walgreens for bowing to political pressure from GOP officials.

“Medication abortion is safe, effective, and serves as a lifeline for people in need of critical care, especially those from vulnerable and underserved communities,” Bonta said on Friday. “I am disappointed that Walgreens has decided to give in to political pressure from anti-abortion states, and cut off access to these necessary and lifesaving medications.”

The company on Monday sought to clarify its position, though their latest statement only added to the confusion.

“Walgreens plans to dispense Mifepristone in any jurisdiction where it is legally permissible to do so,” the company said. Medication abortion is legal and accessible in states like Kansas and Iowa, among others, despite opposition from top Republicans, who have threatened legal action.

In a letter addressed to Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach, an anti-abortion Republican, from last month, Walgreens said it “does not intend to dispense Mifepristone within your state and does not intend to ship Mifepristone into your state from any of our pharmacies.”

Abortion remains protected under Kansas state law. Last summer, the state voted overwhelmingly to block efforts by lawmakers to ban the procedure following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade less than two months earlier.

The US Food and Drug Administration said in early January that pharmacies certified to dispense Mifepristone can do so directly to someone who has a prescription from a prescriber.

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