Warren, Hirono, Senators Raise Concern Over Reports Walgreens May Not Dispense Medication Abortion, Seek Clarity on Company Policy
“The refusal to dispense a medication that is legal and safe to patients in need would be a betrayal of your customers, and your commitment ‘to champion the health and well-being of every community in America.’”
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), along with Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) sent a letter to Walgreens CEO Rosalind Brewer, expressing concern regarding recent reports that the company would not dispense medication abortion in 21 states where Republican Attorneys General have threatened the company.
“As of March 2023, at least 17 states have eliminated all or some access to abortion, with additional states expected to implement new bans this year,” wrote the lawmakers. “These measures endanger millions of Americans and limit access to other essential health care services, such as care for miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, and other complications, in addition to banning or limiting abortion care.”
Early this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) permanently removed the in-person dispensing requirement for mifepristone, the first of two drugs used in medication abortion, and announced that it would allow certified pharmacies to dispense the medication. Following that announcement, Walgreens, as well as other pharmacies, announced that they intended to complete the certification process to dispense mifepristone.
In February of this year, a group of Republican Attorneys General sent a letter – littered with inaccuracies – to Walgreens and CVS in an attempt to intimidate the pharmacies into walking back their commitment to dispense mifepristone in their states. In response, last week, reports indicated that Walgreens would not distribute the medication in those states, including several, such as Kansas, Montana, Iowa, and Alaska, where abortion – including medication abortion – remain legal.
“Given this ongoing attack on access to abortion care, we had grave concerns about reports that Walgreens had decided not to dispense medication abortion in states where it remains legal, viewing it as yet another limit on access to crucial care,” wrote the lawmakers. “Such action would have been a disservice to your patients, and inconsistent with Walgreens’s purpose, ‘to champion the health and well-being of every community in America.’”
In the letter, the lawmakers highlight the decades of evidence proving the safety and efficacy of mifepristone and argue that this decision would not only be inconsistent with Walgreens’s mission “to champion the health and well-being of every community in America,” but also a betrayal of the company’s customers.
On Monday, Walgreens released a new statement appearing to reverse its decision to unjustly deny patients access to mifepristone. “Each day, women’s lives are threatened because they are denied access to essential health care,” wrote the Senators, “and we are hopeful that Walgreens’s latest statement on this matter means the company will not engage in such a denial. To clarify your current policies and your ‘commitment to the communities in which (you) operate,’ we ask that you provide answers to the following questions no later than March 14, 2023.”
Senator Warren has called on the government to use every tool at its disposal to protect and expand access to reproductive care, including increasing access to medication abortion:
- On February 14, 2023, Senators Warren, Mazie Hirono, Tina Smith, Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Cory Booker, Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal, Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) sent a letter to President Biden, urging his administration to take new steps to protect reproductive freedom amid divided control of Congress and increasing efforts to restrict access to abortion.
- On November 18, 2022, Senator Warren led eight of her colleagues in a letter encouraging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to defend America's reproductive rights, and to consider steps to protect and expand access to medication abortion.
- On November 1, 2022, Senator Warren, Duckworth (D-Ill.), Hirono, and Smith (D-Minn.) released a report – based on information provided by leading health care providers – revealing the devastating consequences of state abortion bans and restrictions enacted by right-wing legislatures and the impacts of Senate Republicans’ extreme proposal to ban abortion nationwide after 15 weeks.
- On August 4, 2022, Senator Warren, Mazie Hirono, and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) urging concrete actions the Department can take to help meet President Biden’s goal of protecting and expanding access to medication abortion.
- On July 29, 2022, Senators Warren and Hirono led 23 of their colleagues in a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), calling on the VA to take immediate administrative action to offer abortions and all abortion-related services to veterans and eligible dependents
- On July 21, 2022, Senators Warren and Markey sent letters to Bark Technologies, Gaggle.net, GoGuardian, and Securly Inc., raising concerns that the software these companies use to monitor students’ online activity could be used to criminalize or punish students who are seeking information about abortion services and reproductive health care.
- On July 19, 2022, Senators Warren, Smith, and Murray (D-Wash.) led a group of their Democratic colleagues in introducing the Expanding Access to Family Planning Act.
- On July 14, 2022, Senators Warren, Booker (D-N.J), Padilla (D-Calif.) and over a dozen Senate Democrats wrote to President Biden and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra, urging them to immediately declare national and public health emergencies over Americans’ access to reproductive care.
- On July 11, 2022, Senators Warren and Klobuchar (D-Minn.) sent letters to Facebook and Instagram, calling on them to address their reported censorship of posts related to abortion services, following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.
- On July 7, 2022, Senator Warren announced two key data brokers’ commitments to permanently stop selling the location data of people seeking abortion services.
- On June 25, 2022, following the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, Senators Warren and Smith wrote an op-ed in the New York Times laying out the next steps in the fight to protect the right to an abortion, including calling for the declaration of a public health emergency.
- On June 23, 2022, Senators Warren and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) introduced the Stop Anti-Abortion Disinformation Act, legislation that would crack down on false advertising that crisis pregnancy centers employ to dissuade patients from getting the reproductive care they need, including abortion care.
- On June 15, 2022, Senator Warren introduced the Health and Location Data Protection Act, legislation that bans data brokers from selling some of the most sensitive data available about everyday Americans: their health and location data.
- On June 7, 2022, Senators Warren and Patty Murray led 23 of their Senate colleagues in a letter to President Biden urging him to immediately issue an executive order directing the federal government to develop a national plan to defend Americans’ fundamental reproductive rights, including their right to an abortion.
- On May 17, 2022, Senator Warren led thirteen of her Senate colleagues in letters to two data brokers demanding answers regarding their collection and sale of the cellphone-based location data of people who visit abortion clinics such as Planned Parenthood.
- On May 10, 2022, Senator Warren delivered a speech on the floor of the United States Senate on the need to protect the constitutional right to an abortion, pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, and fight back against Republican extremism.
- On May 9, 2022, Senator Warren wrote an op-ed in Marie Claire about the need to enshrine the right to an abortion in federal law.
- On May 3, 2022, when the draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked, Senator Warren spoke on the steps of the Supreme Court twice to activists, protestors, and the nation about the need to protect abortion rights.
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