California governor cracks down on drug store dropping abortion pills

California Gov. Gavin Newsom talking to reporters on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021, (Santiago Mejia/San Francisco Chronicle via AP, Pool, File)

After Walgreens, one of the largest pharmacy chains in the United States, announced that it will not distribute abortion pills in states where Republican officials have threatened legal action, the decision has sparked a fierce backlash, with California Governor Gavin Newsom vowing to cut ties with the company in retaliation.

The decision has been met with outrage from women’s rights activists, who say that it will make it more difficult for women in conservative states to access safe and legal abortion services.

“Walgreens’ decision is a blatant attack on women’s rights,” said NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue. “It is unconscionable that a corporation would put politics ahead of the health and safety of its customers.”

Newsom, a Democrat, issued a statement on Monday condemning Walgreens’ decision and promising to take action.

“Let me be clear: a company that refuses to provide healthcare services that are legal and safe has no place in our state,” Newsom said. “We will be exploring every option to hold Walgreens accountable for this decision, and we will not rest until they reverse course.”

The controversy stems from a recent move by Republican officials in several states to restrict access to abortion pills, which are used to terminate early pregnancies. In response, Walgreens announced that it would not distribute the pills in those states, citing concerns about potential legal action.

But Newsom and other Democrats have condemned the move, arguing that it will make it harder for women to access the healthcare services they need.

“This decision by Walgreens is an affront to women’s health and a blatant attempt to restrict access to safe and legal abortions,” Newsom said. “It is unacceptable, and we will not tolerate it.”

Newsom’s statement has been applauded by many Democrats and pro-choice activists, who see it as a sign of strong leadership in the face of a growing threat to reproductive rights.

Gavin Newsom earned praise from New Jersey Democrat Lisa McCormick and NARAL President Ilyse Hogue

“Governor Newsom’s decision to cut ties with Walgreens is a powerful statement of support for women’s health and reproductive freedom,” said New Jersey Democrat Lisa McCormick. “I urge the Biden administration to follow his lead and make mifepristone available as an over-the-counter drug in all 50 states.”

McCormick called on officials in New Jersey and other states to follow Newsom’s lead.

Mifepristone, also known as RU-486, is a medication used to induce abortion in early pregnancies. It is currently available only by prescription and is subject to numerous restrictions in many states.

McCormick and other women’s rights advocates argue that making the drug available over-the-counter would help to ensure that women have access to safe and effective healthcare services, regardless of where they live.

However, opponents of abortion rights have pushed back against the move, arguing that it would make it easier for women to obtain abortions without proper medical oversight.

“We cannot allow unlicensed and untrained individuals to distribute dangerous drugs like mifepristone without any supervision or regulation,” said Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas. “This is a dangerous and reckless proposal that would put women’s health at risk.”

Despite the controversy, Walgreens has stood by its decision, arguing that it is necessary to protect its employees from potential legal action.

“We take our legal obligations seriously, and we will not distribute medication in states where doing so could result in legal liability for our company or our employees,” said a spokesperson for the company.

The standoff between Walgreens and pro-choice advocates is likely to continue in the coming weeks and months, as both sides seek to advance their respective agendas.

For now, however, the fate of abortion rights remains uncertain, with lawmakers and activists on both sides of the issue watching closely to see what happens next.

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