Republican Attorneys General Warn CVS and Walgreens Against Mailing and Distributing Abortion-Inducing Drugs

Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey led 19 other Republican state attorneys general (AGs) in a warning letter to CVS and Walgreens that asserts federal law forbids using the mail to send or receive drugs that are intended to be used to produce an abortion.

Bailey and the coalition of AGs wrote to the two drugstore chains, informing them that their announced plan to use the mail to distribute abortion pills is both unsafe and illegal.

“As Attorney General, it is my responsibility to enforce the laws as written, and that includes enforcing the very laws that protect Missouri’s women and unborn children,” said Bailey in a statement. “My Office is doing everything in its power to inform these companies of the law, with the promise that we will use every tool at our disposal to uphold the law if broken.”

In early January, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made a regulatory change that allows independent and chain drugstores, as well as mail-order companies, to offer mifepristone, a drug that induces abortion, making it easier for women and girls to conduct their own abortions at home or in college dorms.

Prior to this regulatory change, the drug was only permitted to be dispensed by a few mail-order pharmacies or certain specified doctors of abortion clinics.

In the medical animation video below, certified OB/GYN Dr. Noreen Johnson describes what happens during a drug-induced abortion.

As Bailey’s office noted, the Biden administration, staunch allies of the abortion industry, endorsed the abortion pills by mail scheme as a means to get around states that have restricted abortion.

The FDA’s new rules still require a prescription for the mifepristone from a certified healthcare provider, but any independent or chain pharmacy that agrees to accept the prescriptions and fulfill other criteria may distribute the drugs either in-store or via mail order.

Both CVS and Walgreens announced almost immediately they would be seeking FDA certification to dispense the abortion-inducing drugs by mail to patients after the new rules were announced.

The letter informs CVS and Walgreens that federal law “expressly prohibits using the mail to send or receive any drug that will ‘be used or applied for producing abortion’”:

Although many people are unfamiliar with this statute because it has not been amended in a few decades, the text could not be clearer: “every article or thing designed, adapted, or intended for producing abortion … shall not be conveyed in the mails.” And anyone who “knowingly takes any such thing from the mails for the purpose of circulating” is guilty of a federal crime. Obviously, a federal criminal law—especially one that is, as here, enforceable through a private right of action—deserves serious contemplation.

“In December, the Biden administration’s Office of Legal Counsel encouraged the U.S. Postal Service to disregard this plain text,” the letter noted, citing a “Memorandum Opinion for the General Counsel United States Postal Service.”

“But the text, not the Biden administration’s view, is what governs,” the attorneys general warn the drugstore chains. “And the Biden administration’s opinion fails to stand up even to the slightest amount of scrutiny.”

“The Biden administration’s opinion admits that the plain text of [the statute] prohibits using the mail to send or receive any drug that will be used for abortion … But then the Biden administration argues that the text should not be ‘[t]aken literally,’” the letter further explained, adding:

We reject the Biden administration’s bizarre interpretation, and we expect courts will as well. Courts do not lightly ignore the plain text of statutes. And the Supreme Court has been openly aversive to other attempts by the Biden administration to press antitextual arguments.

The letter to CVS and Walgreens also observes that the practice of sending and receiving abortion drugs by mail violates state law.

“In Missouri, for example, it is unlawful to distribute an abortion drug through the mail,” Bailey noted. “Missouri law also prohibits unfair or deceptive trade practices—and trade practices that violate federal law necessarily are unfair and deceptive.”

The letter highlights the desires of the attorneys general to protect the women and children of their respective states, given the dangers associated with sending abortion drugs through the mail:

Abortion pills are far riskier than surgical abortions, according to established scientific consensus: “Medication abortions were 5.96 times as likely to result in a complication as first-trimester aspiration abortions.” Abortion pills carry the added risk that when these heightened complications invariably occur, women suffer those harms at home, away from medical help. And finally, mail-order abortion pills also invite the horror of an increase in coerced abortions. When abortion drugs are mailed or consumed outside a regulated medical facility, the risk of coercion is much higher—indeed, guaranteed—because there is no oversight. Outside the regulated medical context, a person can obtain an abortion pill quite easily and then coerce a woman into taking it.

“We emphasize that it is our responsibility as State Attorneys General to uphold the law and protect the health, safety, and well-being of women and unborn children in our states,” the AGs conclude in the letter. “Part of that responsibility includes ensuring that companies like yours are fully informed of the law so that harm does not come to our citizens.”

In addition to Bailey of Missouri, the letter’s other signers are the attorneys general of these states: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.

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Susan Berry, PhD is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected]
Background Photo “CVS Pharmacy” by Famartin. CC BY-SA 4.0.



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