Reproductive rights neglected

Walgreens must follow through on their word


Michael Buckner / Advance-Titan – Universities are doing their part in offering affordable emergency contraceptive pills for female students as Walgreens fails to live up to their word. Boston University is offering emergency contraceptive pills for $7.25 in comparison to a $50 Plan B from Walgreens.

Anya Kelley, News Editor

In the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the Food and Drug Administration finalized a certificate that allows retail pharmacies to sell mifepristone and misoprostol: a drug duo used to terminate pregnancy within 70 days of gestation.

The decision to allow retail pharmacies to sell abortion pills hasn’t been left without controversy. 

According to Politico, Republican state attorneys have been writing letters to Walgreens, threatening legal action if the company begins distributing the pills. 

Walgreens then put out a statement saying that they would not distribute the pills in some states, several of which abortion remains legal in, “acting out of an abundance of caution.”

After Walgreens’ statement went live, California Gov. Gavin Newsom posted a tweet saying, “California won’t be doing business with @walgreens – or any company that cowers to the extremists and puts women’s lives at risk. We’re done.” 

There hasn’t been much of an update since that statement. However, Newsom said California’s relationship with Walgreens is under review

Since this news has blown up, Walgreens has reiterated their public statement about sales of abortion pills. 

We want to be very clear about what our position has always been: Walgreens plans to dispense Mifepristone in any jurisdiction where it is legally permissible to do so,” Walgreens Newsroom said on March 6. “Providing legally approved medications to patients is what pharmacies do, and is rooted in our commitment to the communities in which we operate.”

The thing is, they aren’t following through on their word. 

According to NBC News, Walgreens said they would not sell the pills in Alaska, Florida, Iowa and Montana. Abortion remains completely legal in all four states. However, Fraser Engermann, senior director of Walgreen’s External Relations, said although abortion is legal in Alaska, Iowa, Kansas and Montana, each of those states prohibit pharmacists from dispensing abortion medication. Failure to follow those state laws could result in individual pharmacists facing serious legal risk, he added.

According to the Walgreens FAQs, there were 102 million myWalgreens members as of Aug. 31, 2022. Walgreens is the second largest pharmacy in the U.S. after CVS.

Walgreens is in a unique position right now because of how much power they hold over U.S. citizens. They have a responsibility to provide care to their patients and that includes reproductive care. 

The Walgreens Boots Alliance has a mission statement, “to help people across the world lead healthier and happier lives.” 

Does that not include women around the U.S. in need of reproductive care? Right now, unsafe abortions are a leading cause of maternal deaths. These are completely preventable deaths. 

Gavin Newsom via Twitter

Walgreens is currently bending to the will of conservative lawmakers and acting in the interests of the company rather than the people they serve. 

This is an act of cowardice and a clear show of weakness. They have the opportunity to save the lives of innocent women, but they are choosing to save face instead. 

The women of America aren’t giving up yet. There is still a fight to protect reproductive rights going on right now, even if Walgreens doesn’t want to play along.

In an attempt to expand access, college campuses have begun installing vending machines filled with emergency contraception pills, like Plan B, so students have an affordable and discrete way to access reproductive care. 

Aiza Saeed and Christian Zidouemba helped lead the effort after feeling concern for the women of George Washington University. 

Davidson College, Boston University, Northeastern University and the University of Washington in Seattle all have successfully installed emergency contraception vending machines on their campuses. 

In fact, at Boston University the emergency contraceptives are available for just $7.25 in comparison to Plan B at Walgreens that costs $50

Emergency Contraception for Every Campus (EC4EC) is an advocacy project that was started by the American Society for Emergency Contraception (ASEC). They are the leading group installing the vending machines on campuses around the U.S.

Since it seems we can’t trust our neighborhood pharmacies to advocate for our reproductive rights, we must lean on groups like EC4EC to help keep the women of America safe. 

Walgreens has made up its mind on our bodies, along with all of the red states in this country. We must keep advocating for our autonomy; we don’t need them to be strong. 

Stand in unity with your sisters, keep up the good fight and in the wise words of Carol Hanisch, “The personal is political.” Stay strong.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include a comment from Fraser Engermann, senior director of Walgreen’s External Relations.