Republican attorneys general from 20 states wrote letters to CVS and Walgreens executives warning pharmacy chains against using the mail to dispense abortion pills in their states in a move to crack down on a new Biden administration policy.
The letters censure recent Justice Department guidance — issued in a statement from the Justice Department’s Office of Counsel — which concluded that federal law did not prohibit the mailing of abortion pills. The release of the Justice Department’s opinion comes ahead of the Food and Drug Administration’s introduction of new rules allowing certified pharmacies to dispense medical abortions on prescription, including by mail order.
“We reject the Biden administration’s bizarre interpretation, and we expect the courts will too,” the GOP attorney general wrote, suggesting they could pursue civil actions to challenge the claim that federal law prohibited the shipment of abortion pills allowed.
“Clearly, a federal criminal statute – particularly one enforceable by private prosecution, as here – deserves serious consideration,” they wrote.
Some states prohibit abortion pills from being mailed. Missouri — whose Attorney General Andrew Bailey led the letters — also prohibits “unfair or deceptive trade practices — and trade practices that violate federal statutes are necessarily unfair and deceptive,” the letters said.
Medical abortion — in which pregnancies are terminated with a two-pill regimen — accounts for a majority of the abortions performed in the United States today. Several states restrict medical abortion, some with blanket bans on abortion and others with specific restrictions on access to abortion pills. CVS and Walgreens have said they intend to comply with federal and state laws with their plans to distribute mifepristone, one of the two drugs used in medical abortions. (Previously, pharmacies were allowed to sell the second drug, misoprostol.)
When asked about the attorney general’s new letter, a spokesman for Walgreens said it is not currently administering mifepristone.
“We intend to become a certified dispensary under the program, but understand that we may not be able to dispense mifepristone in all locations if we are certified under the program,” spokesman Fraser Engerman said in an email.
A CVS spokesman did not immediately respond to CNN’s request.