California Governor Gavin Newsom announced this week that the state would no longer continue doing business with Walgreens after the company decided to stop selling mifepristone, a drug used in over half of U.S. abortions, in 21 states. Mifepristone is a pill that, when taken, blocks the effects of progesterone, a hormone necessary for the beginning and continuation of a pregnancy.
Walgreens’ decision came after a group of 21 conservative attorneys general penned a letter to the corporation threatening lawsuits and accusing Walgreens of breaking the 1873 Comstock Act, which hasn’t been enforced since the 1960s. It’s pertinent to mention that some of the states involved in this letter, including but not limited to Iowa, Alaska and Montana, still allow abortion access. Though a spokesperson attempted to affirm Walgreens’ commitment to “distribute mifepristone wherever legally possible,” the corporation’s subsequent letters to the attorneys general confirming the stoppage of the pill’s sales suggest the opposite.
While Walgreens’ decision impacts millions of healthcare seekers, Newsom’s has very little visible day-to-day change for us. Walgreens will still operate in California. The only difference is they will no longer have their $54 million contract with the state which was set to renew on May 1 and was mostly used by the Department of Corrections for prescriptions. This is an astronomical value, no doubt, but I don’t lose any sleep at night when Walgreens loses money. It is imperative that this change does not result in further difficulty obtaining medication for those incarcerated, and though California is not lacking in pharmacies, access can be limited.
Regardless of Walgreens’ cowardice and unfortunate utter predictability, Newsom, in a quote retweet on March 8, iterated his commitment to “not investing in companies that cave to the extremist agenda of the @GOP.” He is firm in his stance supporting reproductive rights and it’s refreshing to see a political figure push back against large corporations. The tens of millions of dollars that would have gone into Walgreens’ pocket are much better spent literally anywhere else.