As pro-life organizations prepared to protest at Walgreens locations around the country this weekend and into the week, the White House condemned the retail pharmacy chain’s decision not to distribute the abortion pill in at least 20 pro-life states following a letter from state attorneys general informing Walgreens that to do so would be illegal.
On Friday, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre read a statement from the White House:
Elected officials targeting pharmacies and their ability to provide women with safe, effective and FDA-approved medication is dangerous and just unacceptable.
This is all part of a continued effort by anti-abortion extremists who want to use this arcane law to impose a backdoor ban on abortion. The administration will continue to stand by the FDA’s expert judgment in approving and regulating medications. And in the face of barriers to access and concerns about safety of patients, healthcare providers and pharmacists, we will continue to support access to this critical medication within the limits of the law.
In a letter to all 20 AGs, Danielle Gray, Executive VP of Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc., verified it will not be distributing the abortion pill in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia. Not all the states prohibit distribution of the abortion pill through the mail, but many have laws requiring the abortion pill to be dispensed at a doctor’s office or in person.
In addition, Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin confirmed on February 23 that Walgreens has told him that it has “no plans” to distribute or ship abortion pills in the state since doing so would be contrary to state law.
Skirting FDA regulations
The White House’s statement that it is “dangerous” for Walgreens not to distribute the “FDA-approved” abortion pill leaves out some important details.
The FDA lifted safety rules that had been in place for 20 years in order to allow for easier distribution of the abortion pill, and there are indications that pharmacies could end up distributing the abortion pill against FDA regulation as abortion businesses are currently doing.
The FDA describes its Risk Evaluation and Mitigation System (REMS) as a “drug safety program that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can require for certain medications with serious safety concerns to help ensure the benefits of the medication outweigh its risks. REMS is designed to reinforce medication use behaviors and actions that support the safe use of that medication.” There are only a few medications that require REMS, but the FDA has now lifted some of the REMS requirements for the abortion pill.
The REMS protocol had required that the abortion pill was dispensed by a certified prescriber and administered in a medical setting. This helped to ensure a woman had a doctor following her care and prevented the abortion pill from being administered too far along in the pregnancy. It also meant the abortion pill could not be sold online. Without those regulations in place, women are at greater risk for complications. These requirements began to erode under the Obama administration and continued to be removed under the Biden administration.
As previously reported by Live Action News, the abortion industry has been purposely ignoring the FDA’s current abortion pill regulations. For example, the FDA-approved limit for abortion pill use is 70 days (10 weeks), yet women are being prescribed the abortion pill into their second trimester of pregnancy. Orlando Women’s Center abortion business states on its website that it offers a “one hour abortion pill procedure” for women who are three to 14 weeks pregnant, prescribing the abortion pill four weeks beyond FDA approval — and there is no such FDA-approved one-hour protocol. The abortion business also offers the abortion pill for women through 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Planned Parenthood dispenses the abortion pill out of alignment with FDA approval as well, stating on its website that the abortion pill is available through 11 weeks, as do Cedar River Clinics and the University of California San Francisco.
Dr. Linda Prine told Vox News, “The pills are approved by the FDA for up to 10 weeks and by the World Health Organization for up to 12. Most of the time, though, they’ve been used in our country under eight weeks; something like 75 percent to 80 percent of people using pills were using them under eight weeks pre-Dobbs. But now, they’re using them whenever they can get them. And sometimes that is quite a bit later. Sometimes it’s 14 weeks, 18 weeks. And so we get calls from people completely freaked out, crying, sobbing.” (emphasis added)
In its statement, the White House called the abortion pill “critical medication” and vowed that it would ensure women have access to it. But health care does not typically seek to kill humans (and these drugs are taken in order to kill humans) and mifepristone and misoprostol are not “critical medication” for pregnancy. The abortion pill does not exist to heal, but to kill innocent, living human beings.
If a woman’s health or life is at risk during pregnancy, legitimate medicine would dictate that treatments would respect both the mother’s and child’s lives. Treatments for miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy are not considered abortions and are not restricted by any pro-life law.
If the pregnancy must end in order to save the woman’s life, preterm delivery and emergency C-sections are also not considered abortions. In these cases, the child is not directly and intentionally killed, but doctors do everything they can to deliver the child alive and administer medical aid to save the child’s life as well as the mother’s.
Risks of abortion pill
Even under FDA-approved use, the abortion pill has been shown to be four times more dangerous than first-trimester surgical abortions. Now that women are being prescribed the abortion pill without being seen by a doctor for a prior exam — a “no test” protocol — the risks are even greater for women. The no-test protocol involves no ultrasounds, no lab work, and no physical exam before an abortion client receives the abortion pill regimen.
The abortion pill carries an increased risk of incomplete abortions as pregnancy progresses, which could lead to serious infection and a possible follow-up surgical abortion. The further along a woman is in her pregnancy, the greater the risk. If a doctor doesn’t examine her to learn the true gestational age of her baby, then a woman is unable to fully understand the risks. Women with undiagnosed ectopic pregnancies are at risk of death from the abortion pill. In addition, about six percent of women who take the abortion pill have complications severe enough that they must visit an emergency room or urgent care center for treatment.
On January 4, 2023, when the FDA updated its statistics on the abortion pill, the agency wrote that “As of June 30, 2022, there were 28 reports of deaths in patients associated with mifepristone since the product was approved in September 2000, including two cases of ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy located outside the womb, such as in the fallopian tubes) resulting in death; and several fatal cases of severe systemic infection (also called sepsis).”*
In addition to the physical risks, women who take the abortion pill at home may experience emotional trauma as they see the body of their deceased baby.
Abortion pill protests
Over the weekend, Students for Life of America held its National Day of Protest at local pharmacies, including Walgreens locations. In more than 40 protests across the country, the organization demanded that Walgreens along with CVS and Rite-Aid ‘opt out’ of selling the abortion pill.
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Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising is also holding its “Walgreens Challenge” this week, inviting its supporters to go to any Walgreens location to do a “60-second disruption” and then leave the store. The group encouraged pro-lifers to take videos of their protests and share them using the hashtag #WalgreensChallenge.
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*THE FDA HAS RECEIVED REPORTS OF SERIOUS ADVERSE EVENTS IN PATIENTS WHO TOOK MIFEPRISTONE. AS OF JUNE 30, 2022, THERE WERE 28 REPORTS OF DEATHS IN PATIENTS ASSOCIATED WITH MIFEPRISTONE SINCE THE PRODUCT WAS APPROVED IN SEPTEMBER 2000, INCLUDING TWO CASES OF ECTOPIC PREGNANCY (A PREGNANCY LOCATED OUTSIDE THE WOMB, SUCH AS IN THE FALLOPIAN TUBES) RESULTING IN DEATH; AND SEVERAL FATAL CASES OF SEVERE SYSTEMIC INFECTION (ALSO CALLED SEPSIS). THE ADVERSE EVENTS CANNOT WITH CERTAINTY BE CAUSALLY ATTRIBUTED TO MIFEPRISTONE BECAUSE OF CONCURRENT USE OF OTHER DRUGS, OTHER MEDICAL OR SURGICAL TREATMENTS, CO-EXISTING MEDICAL CONDITIONS, AND INFORMATION GAPS ABOUT PATIENT HEALTH STATUS AND CLINICAL MANAGEMENT OF THE PATIENT. A SUMMARY REPORT OF ADVERSE EVENTS THAT REFLECTS DATA THROUGH JUNE 30, 2022, IS HERE. THE FDA HAS REVIEWED THIS INFORMATION AND DID NOT IDENTIFY ANY NEW SAFETY SIGNALS. THE FDA INTENDS TO UPDATE THIS SUMMARY REPORT AS APPROPRIATE.
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