By James Brooks
Alaska Beacon 

Walgreens will not sell abortion pills in Alaska, at request of state attorney general

 

March 15, 2023



Following criticism from Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor, the nationwide pharmacy chain Walgreens will not seek to sell the abortion-inducing drug mifepristone in Alaska, the company said earlier this month.

Though abortion is legal in Alaska, Taylor was one of 20 Republican attorneys general who wrote the nation’s second-largest pharmacy chain and urged it to not sell mifepristone by mail.

The attorneys general said they disagree with a Biden administration analysis approving the sale and distribution of the drug through the mail and by chain pharmacies. Walgreens was one of several firms that had said it would seek to sell the drug, which is not currently available through the mail.

Allowing mifepristone by mail would make abortion access more available to most Alaskans; abortion services are currently available only at hospitals, clinics and four other sites in the state.

Walgreens operates 11 stores in Alaska: nine in Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, one in Fairbanks and one in Soldotna.

One-third of the members of the Alaska Legislature sent a letter on March 6 to Walgreens’ chief executive in response to the company’s announcement it would not carry the drug in its Alaska stores.

There was “a lot of anger among many elected officials that an attorney general who’s charged with upholding our constitution is working with a bunch of Outside people, encouraging companies to undercut Alaskans’ constitutionally protected rights,” said Anchorage Rep. Zach Fields.

Mifepristone is the second-most-common method of abortion in Alaska, accounting for 442 of 1,226 recorded abortions in 2021.

In its response to the attorneys general, Walgreens said it “does not intend to dispense Mifepristone within your state and does not intend to ship Mifepristone into your state from any of our pharmacies.”

Taylor is among 23 Republican attorneys general who signed a brief in support of a federal lawsuit seeking to block the sale of mifepristone nationwide. That suit, filed in Texas, could be decided within weeks.

In January, the Food and Drug Administration approved rules allowing mifepristone to be dispensed by chain and local pharmacies and through the mail. That has the potential to increase the availability of medication abortions across Alaska, but the process isn’t immediate: Individual pharmacies need to obtain permission before selling the pills.

Alaska law prohibits medication abortions unless they are performed by state-licensed doctors, but Planned Parenthood Great Northwest sued the state in 2019. In 2021, a state Superior Court judge issued a preliminary injunction suspending the law. That means advanced practice clinicians can also perform medication abortions. That means the doctor or practitioner must be present when the patient takes mifepristone.

Despite the injunction, which found that Planned Parenthood was likely to succeed at trial, the state is continuing to defend the law. A trial is tentatively set for November this year, online court records state.

The Alaska Beacon is an independent, donor-funded news organization. Alaskabeacon.com.

 

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