- California plans to cancel a $54 million contract with Walgreens following the company’s decision to not sell a pill used to provide abortions, mifepristone, in certain states, Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, announced Wednesday.
- The contract, which is scheduled to expire April 30, provides specialty prescription drugs in the state, mostly used by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and its correctional healthcare system. Newsom said the state would look elsewhere to buy the drugs.
- “We are deeply disappointed by the decision by the state of California not to renew our longstanding contract due to false and misleading information,” a Walgreens spokesperson said.
Newsom appears to be making good on his promise to no longer do business with Walgreens after the pharmacy chain said it wouldn’t dispense abortion pills in at least 20 states, following pressure from Republican attorneys general. That includes four states where the medication is not banned.
In a corporate statement Monday, Walgreens changed tack, saying it planned to dispense mifepristone “in any jurisdiction where it is legally permissable to do so.”
That same day, Newsom called for a review of all contracts between California and Walgreens. The Wednesday announcement that California will not renew Walgreens’ multi-million-dollar contract is a result of that ongoing review, according to a notice from the governor’s office.
We’re serious about not investing in companies that cave to the extremist agenda of the @GOP. https://t.co/r5JX09SsZW— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) March 8, 2023
The action illustrates how the drugstore industry is struggling to navigate rapidly shifting state abortion laws. Other major retail pharmacy chains, including CVS, Rite Aid and Walmart, have not said publicly how they plan to approach dispensing abortion pills in states where it’s currently legal, but where Republican officials have threatened legal action.
“Walgreens is facing the same circumstances as all retail pharmacies, and no other retail pharmacies have said that they would approach this situation differently, so it’s unclear where this contract would now be moved,” Walgreens spokesperson Fraser Engerman said.
Newsom’s office did not respond to a request for comment on what further action might be taken against Walgreens.
Medication abortion typically consists a two-pill regimen of mifepristone and another pill called misoprostol. The pills, which have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for more than two decades, currently make up more than half of all abortions.
After the Supreme Court last summer overturned the constitutional right to an abortion, more than a dozen states restricted or banned the use of abortion pills. Some antiabortion groups are seeking to get the pills banned nationwide. A Texas judge is expected to rule any day now on a case looking to revoke the FDA’s decadesold approval of mifepristone — despite the lack of precedent for a court to overturn a government drug approval, and the miniscule chance of serious complications from the pill.
Abortion access is becoming increasingly solidified in states based on political lines. In California, for example, Newsom has vowed to make the state a sanctuary for abortion access in the U.S., signing more than a dozen new laws last year aiming to protect abortion rights.
Yet a number of red states are trying to enact stricter bans.
In Florida — which already bans abortion after 15 weeks — Republican state lawmakers recently proposed banning the procedure after six weeks. Late last month in Nebraska, a legislative panel advanced a bill to ban most abortions after fetal cardiac activity can be detected, which occurs usually around six weeks.
Meanwhile, in Utah, the state legislature sent a bill to the governor’s desk on Friday that would effectively ban abortion clinics from operating in the state. Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, has said he’ll sign the bill.