A group of 20 Republican attorneys general has sent letters to CVS and Walgreens warning the nation’s two largest drugstore chains against distributing abortion pills by mail in their states.
The letters, sent Wednesday, warned that “federal law expressly prohibits” sending the drugs through the mail, a reference to wording in the 1873 Comstock Act.
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey wrote in the letter that “Federal law (the Comstock Act) expressly prohibits using the mail to send or receive any drug that will ‘be used or applied for producing abortion’… the text could not be clearer: ‘every article or thing designed, adapted, or intended for producing abortion … shall not be conveyed in the mails.’
“And anyone who ‘knowingly takes any such thing from the mails for the purpose of circulating’ is guilty of a federal crime,” Bailey continued.
A rule change by the Food and Drug Administration last month allows retail pharmacies to sell the drug as long as they get government certification to do so.
The change allows for women to get a prescription via a telehealth consultation with a health care professional and get the drug through the mail where it is permitted by law.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA allowed the pills to be sent through the mail to avoid forcing someone to go to a clinic or hospital.
The updated information was posted on the FDA’s website.
The Justice Department issued a legal opinion on Dec. 23 that said federal law allows the US Postal Service to deliver abortion drugs, CNN reported.
The Office of Legal Counsel opinion said that the 1873 Comstock Act “does not prohibit the mailing of certain drugs that can be used to perform abortions where the sender lacks the intent that the recipient of the drugs will use them unlawfully.”
The medication is used in more than 50% of abortions in the United States, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization that works to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Walgreens said it planned to get certified under the new rule, but recognized “we may not be able to dispense mifepristone (a drug used in combination with a second drug to bring about an abortion) in all locations.”
Bailey wrote that the new rule conflicted with the Comstock Act and state law.
“As Attorney General, it is my responsibility to enforce the laws as written, and that includes enforcing the very laws that protect Missouri’s women and unborn children,” Bailey wrote.
“My Office is doing everything in its power to inform these companies of the law, with the promise that we will use every tool at our disposal to uphold the law if broken.”
An additional 19 attorneys general joined Bailey in signing the letter. They are from Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.
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