In a move that has sparked controversy, several pharmacies across the United States have announced that they will begin selling anti-abortion pills over the counter, without a prescription. The move has been welcomed by some as a step towards greater access to abortion, while others have decided to take to the entrances of pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens to dissuade women from purchasing these pills.
In the past, these drugs could only be obtained through a prescription from a healthcare provider. However, some pharmacies decided to jump on the opportunity given by the Food and Drug Administration to allow retail pharmacies to stock and dispense abortion pills in states where they’re legal.
Proponents of this move argue that it will make it easier for women to access safe and effective abortion care, particularly in areas where there are few healthcare providers who offer abortion services. They also point out that many women may not have the time or resources to travel to a healthcare provider in order to obtain a prescription for the drugs.
Opponents of the move, including the Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising group led by Caroline Smith, took it upon themselves to camp out with picket signs and words spewed at women who entered the pharmacies. A tactic that is often used by protestors outside of abortion clinics.
“We want people to be uncomfortable going into a CVS that has a demonstration going on and to consider going to a different pharmacy,” said Caroline Smith to POLITICO. “We also want to put enough pressure on the companies to retract this decision and not get certified to sell abortion pills.”
Though anti-abortion advocates claimed victory with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the fight hasn’t stopped there. With the production of abortion-inducing pills becoming popular across the country, especially in states with strict abortion laws, protestors are hoping their efforts to send women away from these pharmacies will dwindle down the sales of the drug.
“The safety of pharmacy teams is really important, and that’s something they’re going to take into consideration when they decide whether or not to become certified,” said Ilisa Bernstein, the interim CEO for the American Pharmacists Association said to POLITICO. “In some communities, that may be more of a concern than others, but it is a concern.”
States like Missouri and Kansas worked to ban mail delivery services and pharmacy sales of one of the two pills used to terminate a pregnancy, mifepristone. A Kansas judge, however, blocked the law. Members of the new House Republican majority have put forward a bill that allows pharmacists to refuse refills of prescriptions.
These efforts by conservatives are a way to make access to abortion almost impossible, which progressives argue is already difficult enough. “They’re trying to deter people from going online and getting pills and, in their minds, close gaps in their current law,” explained Elizabeth Nash to POLITICO, who tracks state policy for the pro-abortion rights think tank Guttmacher Institute.
Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) reintroduced a federal bill that bars employers or the government from penalizing any health worker who refuses to fill a prescription for any medication that he or she “in good faith believes may be used to cause an abortion.” He claims the employee should be able to exercise their first right amendment.
Though it’s not expected to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate, medical groups have argued this bill could add to the already growing problem of patients being denied drugs prescribed for other purposes — from lupus to arthritis to miscarriage management — because they are also typically used to terminate a pregnancy.