New York governor, attorney general press pharmacy chains on abortion drug policy

NEW YORK — Gov. Kathy Hochul and state Attorney General Tish James are pressing three of the country’s largest pharmacy chains to dispense abortion medications in New York and across the U.S., after Walgreens said it would stop offering the drugs in states where Republican attorneys general have threatened legal action.

In a letter Thursday, Hochul and James asked the CEOs of Walgreens, Rite Aid and CVS to confirm in writing that the chains will offer the abortion drug mifepristone at their New York pharmacies and through the mail to patients across the state who have a doctor’s prescription.

“Even as access to this medication is under threat elsewhere for political reasons, we remind you that New York’s law is simple,” Hochul and James wrote. “Abortion is legal and protected as a fundamental right under state law, and there are no legal barriers to dispensing mifepristone in New York pharmacies.”

Walgreens, the nation’s second-largest pharmacy chain and owner of New York-based Duane Reade, confirmed last week that it would not dispense abortion pills either by mail or at brick-and-mortar locations in several states where they remain legal.

The company announced the decision after nearly two dozen Republican state attorneys general threatened legal action if it began distributing the drugs, which have become the most popular method of ending a pregnancy in the U.S.

“We urge you not to allow these tactics to intimidate you, and to commit to making this critical medication available as widely as possible, based on a fair and unbiased interpretation of state and federal law,” Hochul and James wrote in their letter to the pharmacy executives.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that the state would not renew a $54 million contract with Walgreens in response to the company’s decision. A renewal of the contract, under which Walgreens provides medications to California inmates, was scheduled to take effect May 1.

New York state does not appear to have any active contracts with Walgreens, according to a review of records with the state comptroller’s office.

The FDA announced in January that it would allow retail pharmacies to dispense the abortion pill mifepristone to pregnant people with a prescription, following the release of new data on the drugs’ safety and efficacy. Before then, patients had to get the medication directly from a doctor.

Under the new policy, pharmacies must obtain certification to dispense the medication. Walgreens has said it is working on getting certified in some states, which the company declined to name, but is not yet distributing the pills anywhere.

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