NASHVILLE (BP) – Attorneys general in 20 states warned CVS and Walgreens Wednesday (Feb. 1) they will violate the law if they sell abortion pills through the mail.
CVS and Walgreens, the country’s largest pharmacy chains, announced they would carry and dispense the abortion pill, mifepristone, after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) changed its rules in early January to permit its sale by retail pharmacies. Mifepristone is the first drug in a two-step process commonly referred to as medical or chemical abortion.
In their letters to the companies, the attorneys general rejected a December opinion by the Department of Justice (DOJ) that the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) can legally deliver abortion drugs. Federal law, however, “expressly prohibits using the mail to send or receive any drug that will ‘be used or applied for producing abortion,’” they said.
The letter from the attorneys general to CVS and Walgreens came a week after Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., led more than 40 members of Congress in writing U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to denounce the DOJ’s memorandum. The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) joined a dozen other pro-life organizations in endorsing the congressional letter.
The ERLC also urged the chief executive officers of CVS and Walgreens in a Jan. 6 letter to repeal their decisions to dispense the abortion pill.
The decisions by the FDA and the DOJ are the latest in a series of actions taken by President Biden and his administration in an effort to counteract the Supreme Court’s June 2022 reversal of the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. The high court returned abortion policy to the states by overturning Roe, which legalized abortion throughout the country.
“This moment should serve as confirmation on two fronts,” ERLC President Brent Leatherwood told Baptist Press. “First, that while states have an important role now in shaping abortion policy, the federal government can still make consequential decisions in this area. And second, the newfound role of states gives them the ability to stand for life like never before.
“In light of these twin realities, we endorsed this letter by Senator Lankford and affirm efforts, like this one from the attorneys general, to clearly state their opposition to the spread of abortion pills in their states” he said in emailed comments. “If we’re to establish a true culture of life, preventing the abortion mills from accessing our mailboxes is a much-needed first step.
Mifepristone, often known as RU 486 and authorized by the FDA under President Clinton in 2000, causes the lining of the uterus to release the embryonic child, resulting in his or her death. It is approved for use in the first 10 weeks of gestation. Misoprostol, a drug approved by the FDA to treat ulcers, is typically taken one to two days later and causes the uterus to contract, expelling the body.
Medical/chemical procedures as a percentage of all abortions have increased dramatically the last two decades. They rose between 2001 and 2020 from 5 percent of all abortions to 53 percent, the Guttmacher Institute reported Dec. 1.
The federal law in question – Section 1461 of the Comstock Act of 1873 – says “[e]very article or thing designed, adapted, or intended for producing abortion” cannot be legally delivered by the USPS.
In its Dec. 23 memorandum, the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) said it determined Section 1461 “does not prohibit the mailing, or the delivery or receipt by mail, of mifepristone or misoprostol where the sender lacks the intent that the recipient of the drugs will use them unlawfully. [T]here are manifold ways in which recipients in every state may use these drugs, including to produce an abortion, without violating state law.”