California cancels $54 million contract with Walgreens over abortion pill fight


Fulfilling a threat made on Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom said on Wednesday that California will cancel a $54 million contract with Walgreens as punishment for the pharmacy’s decision not to distribute abortion pills in states where attorneys general have warned that would be illegal.

Newsom on social media said Monday that California “will not do business with Walgreens – or any company that cowers in the face of extremists and puts women’s lives at risk” after the company indicated last week that it would not distribute pills. abortions in at least 20 states. where attorneys general threatened legal action.

But Newsom didn’t elaborate, and his office at the time couldn’t say exactly what that would mean.

On Wednesday, the governor’s office said the state will not renew a contract between Walgreens and the California Department of General Services that provides “prescription drugs at specialty pharmacies” used primarily by the state’s correctional health system.

The state paid Walgreens $54 million for the contract that was set for renewal on May 1 but will be canceled as part of an ongoing “review of all contracts between the state and Walgreens,” Newsom’s office said.

“California will not stand by while corporations cave to extremists and cut off critical access to reproductive care and freedom,” Newsom said in a statement. “California is on track to become the fourth largest economy in the world and we will leverage our market power to defend the right to choose.”

At issue is mifepristone, part of a two-drug cocktail that has been prescribed for early miscarriages in the US since the Food and Drug Administration approved its use in 2000.

The Biden administration has sought to make the drug more widely available since the US Supreme Court last year overturned Roe v. Wade, 50 years ago, which established the right to abortion. While traditionally only available in-person through physicians for safety reasons, the FDA this year expanded the rules to allow retail pharmacies to dispense the pills after completing a certification process, which would make them available not just in pharmacies, but also online by mail. Walgreens was among the pharmacies that went through this process.

But after receiving a letter last month signed by attorneys general in 20 states, Walgreens said in response that it would not distribute the pills in those states, and Newsom cited news of that decision in his Monday commentary.

Walgreens did not have an immediate response to Newsom’s announcement on Wednesday. In a statement on Monday, the Illinois-based pharmacy said, “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. Once we are certified by the FDA, we will dispense this drug in accordance with federal and state laws.”

Opponents of abortion criticized Newsom – often mentioned as a potential Democratic presidential candidate should Joe Biden drop his re-election bid – for going after Walgreens.

“Gavin Newsom’s attempt to intimidate Walgreens into supplying abortive drugs in jurisdictions where it may be illegal highlights his priority of delivering dead children over living ones,” said Mary Rose Short, director of
California Right to Life.

“In California, Newsom has championed laws that require companies to fund and facilitate abortion,” Short said. “Now he is trying to force a company to violate state laws that prohibit abortion and protect unborn children and their mothers. Newsom expects the pharmacy to supply abortive drugs even where it is illegal, where there is no demand for the regimen and where pharmacists are not willing to fill the lethal prescription.”

Newsom said Wednesday that in some of the states where attorneys general have threatened legal action, abortion remains legal.

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