NEW YORK — According to published reports, almost 20 Democratic senators are calling on Walgreens to provide more details about its recently announced plans to restrict access to abortion pills in certain states and pressing other major chains to make it clear where they stand on the issue.
In a letter first shared with NBC News, 17 Senate Democrats asked Walgreens to provide the “strongest possible” access to the pills and clearly communicate its abortion drug policies to customers in the wake of its decision not to sell the pills in several states where abortion is legal and illegal.
“At a time of great confusion about abortion access, your company has done the disservice of adding to it,” the senators wrote in a letter led by Patty Murray of Washington and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.
“While we are well aware of threatening letters you received with regard to the distribution of mifepristone in certain states, the response to those pressures was unacceptable and appeared to yield to these threats—ignoring the critical need to ensure patients can get this essential health care wherever possible,” the senators added.
Stabenow said in a statement Tuesday: “In no way, shape or form should businesses deny legal health care to women who have the right to access this vital medication. All businesses should follow the FDA certification process and fully comply with applicable state and federal law.”
Walgreens spokesman Fraser Engerman said this month that the company was “not dispensing mifepristone at this time.”
“We intend to become a certified pharmacy under the program, however we will only dispense in those jurisdictions where it is legal to do if we are certified.
“This is a very complex and in-flux area of the law and we are taking that into account as we seek certification to dispense Mifepristone,” he added.
The senators asked Walgreens to reply to their letter by March 21.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, announced last week that the state will not renew its multimillion-dollar contract with Walgreens as a result of its new policy.
In January, the FDA announced it would broaden the availability of medication abortion by allowing pharmacies to dispense the pills directly to patients in person or through mail delivery for the first time. Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid announced they planned to sell the drugs shortly after the FDA rule change.
“Medication abortion is how most women across our country get abortion care, and it’s absolutely critical patients can access this safe, FDA-approved drug without being forced to jump through medically-unnecessary hoops or drain their bank accounts to travel hundreds of miles,” Murray said in a statement Tuesday.
Many of the Democrats who signed the letter to Walgreens also signed on to letters applauding CVS’ and Rite Aid’s plans to seek certification to dispense medication abortion. They urged the two companies to offer clear guidelines on how they plan to dispense the pills and to “not cause further confusion or undue alarm.”
Senators expressed their frustration in letters that Albertsons, Costco, Kroger and Walmart have not announced whether their policies going forward include selling abortion pills.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com
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