A group of anti-abortion protesters broke into Walgreens’ shareholder meeting

Walgreens Boots Alliance’s annual shareholder meeting had some unannounced visitors yesterday (Jan. 26).

Anti-abortion demonstrators broke into the meeting room in Newport Coast, California, to protest the pharmacy chain’s plan to start selling abortion pills.

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The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Jan. 3 that any patient with a prescription for mifepristone—the abortion pill used up to 10 weeks of gestation—would be allowed to get it from the local pharmacy store. On Jan. 4, both CVS and Walgreens said they would get certified to provide the drugs wherever abortion is legal. Fifteen days later, Rite Aid also said it would dispense the drugs at a limited number of pharmacies and through the mail.

An anti-abortion protest had been authorized in a space outside the building where the annual general meeting (AGM) was held, but demonstrators found a way in. “Today, directly after the close of official business of our annual shareholders meeting, a small group of protesters entered the meeting room without authorization,” Walgreens senior director for external relations Fraser Engerman told Reuters. “We are grateful that none of our shareholders, team members and event staff were harmed during this incident.”

Anti-abortion groups are gearing up for a series of protests outside drugstores and pharmacy chain headquarters, in a style similar to the ones that have plagued family planning clinics for decades.

A non-exhaustive list of upcoming anti-abortion protests at Walgreens and CVS

Feb. 4: Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising says it will hold nationwide protests at CVS and Walgreens locations in key cities across the nation, including Washington DC, San Francisco, Detroit, Austin, Los Angeles, and New York City. “All registered hosts will receive a free activist kit including banner, literature, and a megaphone,” it said in a Facebook post. They’ve also asked people to boycott the two retail chains until they walk back the decision to sell abortion pills.

Feb. 14: Students for Life, which claims to serve more than 1,300 student groups on high school and college campuses, will hold its kickoff protest “Cancel Abortion Cartels” at Walgreens’ corporate headquarters in Deerfield, Illinois, to “demand that our pharmacies ‘opt out’ of selling dangerous chemical abortion pills.” It’s also launching letter-writing campaigns and asking students to send Valentine’s Day cards to CEOs to ask them to “urge them to stop making our pharmacies abortion facilities and distributing deadly chemical abortion pills,” it said on its website.

March 4: Students for Life has called for a National Day of Protest at local pharmacies.

Feb. 22-April 2: 40 Days for Life, an international organization that protests via praying, fasting, and community outreach, is organizing multiple vigils.

Abortion access, by the digits

50: The number of “noisy protesters with signs just outside of the resort grounds” where Walgreens’ AGM was held yesterday (Jan. 26), according to Walgreens shareholder and AGM attendee John Chevedden’s email response to Reuters

620,327: Abortions nationally in 2020 in the District of Columbia and 47 states, down 1.5% from the year prior, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

53%: Share of pregnancy interruptions due to abortion pills, according to the CDC and sexual and reproductive health research and policy NGO Guttmacher Institute

1,603: Facilities in the U.S. that provided abortions in 2020, including 807 clinics, 530 hospitals and 266 physicians’ offices.

More than 18,000: Combined network of Walgreens and CVS stores in the US

128%: Rise in assaults against abortion clinic staff and patients in 2021 from the previous year, which could get worse as anti-abortion movements gather more steam

$495 million: Funding at least 13 states have funneled since 2010 to nonprofits known as crisis pregnancy centers that try to steer women away from having abortions. Texas accounts for the majority, at over $200 million

One in ten: People who crossed state lines to get an abortion before Roe v. Wade was overturned—the share has presumably risen since

38%: American women aged between 13 and 44 who live in a state with supportive abortion rights

Quotable: Abortion under attack

“By making abortion legal nationwide, Roe v. Wade has had a dramatic impact on the health and well-being of American women. Deaths from abortion have plummeted, and are now a rarity (see chart). In addition, women have been able to have abortions earlier in pregnancy when the procedure is safest: The proportion of abortions obtained early in the first trimester has risen from 20% in 1970 to 56% in 1998 (see chart). These public health accomplishments may now be seriously threatened.” —Rachel Benson Gold, Guttmacher Institute

What’s next for abortion rights in the US?

Since the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that made abortion legal in the US was overturned last June, more than a dozen states have implemented near-total bans on abortion.


For anti-abortion protestors, their focus shifted from legal to legislative for the first time in 50 years during their annual “March for Life” earlier this month. They have increasingly turned their attention to restricting access to abortion pills and fetal personhood, among other extreme pro-life measures.

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