CT advocates, Blumenthal call for Walgreens to reverse decision on selling abortion pill
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and health advocates are asking Walgreens to reverse what they says is its decision to “put profits and politics” over people, by denying millions of people access to abortion pills in their stores.
On March 2, Walgreens announced that it would not sell mifepristone in 21 red states after threats of legal action from those states by Republican Attorneys General. Connecticut is not one of those states.
Mifepristone is the first part of a two-drug regimen for a medication abortion, the most common way to end a pregnancy. It is also used for miscarriages and has come under attack by Republicans since the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the advocates said.
Blumenthal said he plans to return to Washington, D.C. to organize his colleagues to protest what he calls a “truly craven surrender to the hard, right ideological opponents of reproductive rights.”
“Let’s be very clear. The FDA, 20 years ago, approved mifepristone, medication abortion, as safe and effective. The FDA says medication abortion through mifepristone is safe and effective. That is the federal law and it supplants any state restrictions under the Constitution, nobody can deny that federal law is supreme,” he said.
He also said that 21 Attorneys General have said they’re going to sue not only Walgreens, but other pharmacies if they make mifepristone unavailable.
“Walgreens has succumbed, it has caved cravenly, cowardly to this bullying and intimidation. Walgreens should know better. Walgreens has simply thrown up its hands and said ‘women lose, you win.’ That’s not the law. And that’s not moral. It’s not acceptable,” he said.
A message seeking comment was left with Walgreens.
Blumenthal said he demands that Walgreens reverse its policy and tell women it will make mifepristone available in any state, anywhere in the country, because the FDA said that it’s safe and effective.
“Patients have a right to this health care. Women’s health care is important not only to them, but also to families,” he said.
He also pledges to write to all the pharmacies asking that they commit to provide this medication and hopes his colleagues will do the same.
“I hope my colleagues will join me…I will be asking them to join me in this effort. I believe that we will have many members of the Senate who stand up and speak out against this new policy by Walgreens and others. To allow this kind of restriction on access to health care would set a deeply damaging and disruptive precedent. And so, I am hopeful that we will have a strong bipartisan coalition against this action by pharmacies. The pharmacies in America cannot simply say, you win, women lose,” he said.
Planned Parenthood Southern New England President and CEO Amanda Skinner said that this decision would have a devastating impact on people seeking medication for abortion across the country.
“As a nurse midwife [and] my training as a health care professional, I can tell you that mifepristone is safer than Tylenol. It has been used by more than 5 million people since the FDA approved it more than 20 years ago, for the first time. This helped ensure that patients were able to make their own personal, private medical decisions, and has expanded access to reproductive health care, something that is clearly under attack in this country,” she said.
She also said that there is overwhelming evidence that medication abortion is safe and effective for virtually anyone who wants to end an early pregnancy with a safety record of over 99%.
“So let’s just be clear, Walgreens decision not to dispense a safe and legal medication in more than 20 states has no basis in medical science or patient centered care. Instead, it demonstrates the harmful impact of anti-abortion activists and anti-abortion lawmakers,” she said. “Anti-abortion forces will not stop at overturning Roe and allowing states to ban abortion. They are actively working to dismantle sexual reproductive health care access nationwide – including by trying to end the FDA’s approval of Mifepristone.”
Skinner said that abortion care is already out of reach for millions of people across the country, as increasingly restrictive abortion bans have been and continue to be passed.
“For millions more, unnecessary barriers rooted in systemic racism and discrimination make even care that is legal, nearly impossible for them to access. Restricting access to Mifepristone for example, in Walgreens decision to not dispense, even when it is legal, presents one more real threat to actual people’s ability to access abortion care,” she said.
She said that fundamentally, everyone should have the ability to make decisions about their own bodies, lives and futures, including choosing the method of abortion that works best for their circumstances.
“As always, Planned Parenthood is relentlessly committed to doing everything we can to ensure that patients can access the abortion method of their choice with as few barriers as possible. We’re grateful to our champions in Washington like Senator Blumenthal, for their unwavering commitment to protecting the reproductive health and rights of people across our country. Together, we will continue fighting with everything we’ve got to make sure everyone has access to the sexual reproductive health care that they need and deserve no matter where they live,” she said.
Pro Choice CT State Director Liz Gustafson said that since the Supreme’s Court decision in Roe, they are witnessing what they knew would be true.
“The anti-abortion movement was never going to stop with Roe. Corporations are caving into politically motivated harassment and fear mongering campaigns by anti-abortion extremists, resulting in the dangerous decision by Walgreens to put profits over people. At the same time, we are awaiting a decision at a federal court in Amarillo, Texas, regarding a case challenging the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, even though mifepristone is safe, effective and has been used by more than 5 million people since the FDA approved it more than 20 years ago,” she said.
Gustafson also said the impact of abortion bans is hardest on those who already face barriers to health care, especially young people, LGBTQ+ people, people working to make ends meet, and Black and brown people.
Gustafson said that her organization is working on a broad range of policies that will not only protect providers within the state from out of state overreach and anti-abortion politicians, but is also expanding access to abortion and the full range of comprehensive and reproductive care.
Skinner said that her organization is committed to keeping their doors open, no matter what to patients who need their services, even if they are coming from out of state or Canada.
“We’ve had patients travel thousands of miles to seek abortion care here in Connecticut. We’re very grateful for legislators and leaders like Senator Blumenthal, and champions here in Connecticut who are working really hard to make sure that we’re putting protections into place – so that we can feel safe…when we’re providing care to people who need our care…and that our providers, our clinicians, and our staff are being protected in providing that care,” she said.
Blumenthal said he is going to shop at pharmacies that commit to making available health care that is ethical, safe, and effective for women.