Pro-Life Advocates Bash Gavin Newsom’s ‘Ludicrous’ Boycott Threat against Walgreens
The governor of the nation’s largest state has threatened to cut off all state business with the retail pharmaceutical chain Walgreens, unless it agrees to carry abortion-inducing pills in states where they are banned by law. Ironically, pro-life advocates say, bringing his boycott to reality would save unborn children’s lives.
“California won’t be doing business with @walgreens — or any company that cowers to the extremists and puts women’s lives at risk,” declared Newsom on Twitter Monday afternoon. “We’re done.” California, which has 13 million people on its Medicaid program alone, “is reviewing all relationships between Walgreens and the state,” said Newsom spokesman Brandon Richards. Shares of Walgreens’ stock fell 1.77% after Newsom’s announcement.
The threatened boycott came after Walgreens announced Friday it would not sell the abortion pill mifepristone in the 20 states where pro-life attorneys general say distribution would violate state and federal law. On February 1, the prosecutors wrote to Walgreens that distributing abortion-inducing pills violates the Comstock Act, which prevents the mail from delivering “any … thing [that] may, or can, be used or applied for producing abortion,” as well as multiple state laws. “It is our responsibility as State Attorneys General to uphold the law and protect the health, safety, and well-being of women and unborn children in our states,” says the letter, led by Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey (R).
Walgreens, the nation’s second-largest pharmaceutical chain, reiterated Monday night that it “plans to dispense [m]ifepristone in any jurisdiction where it is legally permissible to do so. Once we are certified by the FDA, we will dispense” the abortion-inducing pill “consistent with state and federal laws. Providing legally approved medications to patients is what pharmacies do, and is rooted in our commitment to the communities in which we operate.” Their partial abortion advocacy does not appear to have placated Newsom, whose call to end all business with the chain has been joined by left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) also proclaimed Walgreens’s decision “[a]bsolutely awful. This willful corporate choice will prevent so many women from choosing the healthcare they need and have a legal right to.”
“It is ludicrous that he is condemning a company for not violating the law,” Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin told “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins” on Tuesday. Others cited Newsom’s threat as yet another sign of his unswerving commitment to the abortion industry. “This is ghoulish,” replied Live Action founder Lila Rose, who branded Newsom’s tweet “yet another new low. The salivating over drugs that kill babies is disgusting.”
Still others noted that following Newsom’s advice would save the lives of unborn babies, and some of their mothers. “As a member of the pro-life movement, I hope that every Californian joins this boycott and, in doing so, saves the lives of countless unborn babies who would have been killed by chemical abortion drugs purchased from Walgreens’ over 500 stores based in California,” Mary Szoch, director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council, told The Washington Stand.
Walgreens operates 586 stores in California, according to its most recent listing of stores by state, but has 3,404 locations in the 20 pro-life states. In all, 5,207 of Walgreens’s 9,021 pharmacies in 2020 reside in the 29 states that restrict some or all chemical abortions.
Competitors CVS and Rite Aid, which have signaled their willingness to carry mifepristone, are watching Walgreens’s actions closely. “Rite Aid is monitoring the latest federal, state, legal and regulatory developments regarding mifepristone dispensing and we will continue to evaluate the Company’s ability to dispense mifepristone in accordance with those developments,” the retail chain told CNN.
Chemical abortions, which involve a two-drug cocktail of mifepristone and misoprostol, now represent 54% of all U.S. abortions, although they present four times the number of harmful side effects as less-profitable surgical abortions.
Between 2000 and 2021, the FDA documented a total of 4,207 adverse events — including 26 deaths, 1,045 hospitalizations, 603 events requiring a blood transfusion, and 413 infections. The number is artificially low, critics note, because the Obama-Biden administration required only deaths caused by chemical abortion to be reported to the FDA’s Adverse Events Reporting System (FAERS) beginning in 2016, erasing women’s physical suffering from the record.
The FDA record also ignores extensively documented mental suffering from women who ingest abortion-inducing drugs. One-third of women subjected to a chemical abortion “reported an adverse change,” including “depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and thoughts of suicide,” according to Support After Abortion’s rigorous study of post-abortive women released earlier this year.
Newsom should know too well that boycotts often backfire. San Francisco recently revealed its seven-year refusal to do business with pro-life, pro-family states and localities raised city contracting prices 10-20%. Newsom’s vacation to Montana reportedly ran afoul of his own ban on state-funded travel against 22 states that protect conscience rights on LGBT matters.
Observers say Newsom, an all-but-certain 2024 presidential contender if Joe Biden does not seek reelection, may have threatened Walgreens to ingratiate himself with his party’s activist core, which endorses abortion-until-birth.
“It’s politics for Governor Newsom,” AG Griffin told Perkins. “This is just to rally the base.” Newsom ranked fourth in a Premier poll of Democrats released early last month, behind Vice President Kamala Harris, Hillary Clinton, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Possibly due to his state’s poor performance on metrics ranging from crime to the number of residents moving elsewhere, Newsom announced Tuesday he will not deliver the State of the State Address, replacing it with a statewide policy tour.
Whatever his motivation, Newsom’s announcement continues the endless back-and-forth between the Biden administration’s attempt to expand abortion-on-demand and pro-life states’ efforts to protect women and children.
One month after the Dobbs decision, the Biden administration’s Department of Health and Human Services sent a guidance to 60,000 pharmacies threatening legal “corrective action” against any pharmacist who refuses to distribute abortion-inducing pills to “pregnant people.” Last December 27, Biden’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) issued an opinion that pharmacies may mail or ship abortion pills to pro-life states as long as they do not intend that “the recipient of the drugs will use them unlawfully.” Then, in January, Biden’s FDA lowered the health and safety standards protecting pregnant women — known as Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies (REMS) — to allow retail pharmacies to sell abortion pills.
In January, 41 Members of Congress — led by Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — wrote a letter to Attorney General Merrick that branded the Biden administration’s legal guidance erroneous. The letter, originally released exclusively to The Washington Stand, stated the Justice Department had “twisted the plain meaning of the law in an effort to promote the taking of unborn life.” The 20 state AGs concurred.
All parties agree pharmacies that ship abortion pills in violation of state law put themselves at risk of legal action. “All pro-lifers must recognize that state laws are their best hope to protect innocent human life in this chapter of the movement,” John Seago, president of Texas Right to Life, told The Washington Stand. The 20 states include Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.
The Alliance Defending Freedom has also filed a national lawsuit challenging the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, which it contends violated legal standards. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) advised the Biden administration that if it loses the case, it should “ignore the ruling and keep this life-saving [sic] drug on the market.”
All sides of the abortion debate believe that in the post-Dobbs environment, states will become the locus of the right-to-life cause. Rachel Rebouché, the dean of the Temple University Law School and a supporter of abortion-on-demand, said abortion pills “will occupy legislators’ and advocates’ attention in the coming years.”
As the laws play out, right-to-life advocates are appealing to pharmacies’ decency, and economic self-interest. More than 50,000 people have signed Family Research Council’s petition asking Walgreens and CVS, “Do Not Turn Your Pharmacies into Abortion Businesses!”
“As for Walgreens, I pray that the company soon recognizes that selling abortion drugs will make them complicit in taking innocent unborn children’s lives, and — regardless of what state law says — this is a horrendous evil,” said Szoch.
The California Policy Council did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.