California terminates Walgreens contract over abortion pill dispute

California Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday withdrew a $54 million contract with Walgreens after the drugstore giant revealed it not for sale an abortion pill by mail in some conservative states.

Newsom on Wednesday ordered state officials not to renew a contract with Walgreens to buy specialty pharmacy prescription drugs for the California prison health care system, including antivirals and antifungal drugs and drugs used for congestive heart failure. Walgreens earned about $54 million from the contract, which expires April 30.

Newsom’s office said the state will buy the drugs elsewhere.

“California will not stand by while corporations prey on extremists and cut off critical access to reproductive care and freedom,” Newsom said in a news release. “California is on track to become the fourth largest economy in the world and we will use our market power to protect the right to choose.”

A representative from Walgreens, based in the northern Chicago suburb of Deerfield, Ill., did not respond to an email from The Associated Press seeking comment. But earlier this week, the company said in a statement that the company plans to distribute the drug, called mifepristone, “in any jurisdiction where it is legally permitted to do so.”

“Providing legally approved medicines to patients is what pharmacies do, and is rooted in our commitment to the communities in which we operate,” according to a statement posted on the company’s website.

Mifepristone is a pill that when mixed with another pill can terminate a pregnancy. The US Food and Drug Administration approved the pill in 2000 for use up to the 10th week of pregnancy. Today, more than half of all abortions in the US are performed through the pill, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.

After the US Supreme Court last year overturned the federal right to an abortion, more than a dozen states have banned the use of abortion pills. But these restrictions have been challenged in court.

The attorneys general of 20 states, mostly Republican governors, warned Walgreens and CVS could face legal consequences if they sell abortion pills in their states. Last week, Walgreens confirmed it had sent a response to each attorney general saying it would not distribute the drug in their states.

Newsom responded to the news on Monday, posting a Twitter message that California will not do business with Walgreens “or any company that terrorizes extremists and puts women’s lives at risk.”

“We’re done,” Newsom said.

Losing the California contract had little impact on Walgreens’ earnings, as the company reported $132.7 billion in sales for the fiscal year that ended Aug. 31.

But for Newsom, the move is more about strengthening California’s role as a leader in what he calls “reproductive freedom.”

Newsom has promised to make California a sanctuary for people in other states where abortion is illegal or severely restricted. Last year, Newsom signed more than a dozen new laws which aims to protect abortion rights, including signing the $20 million in new spending to help pay travel and lodging expenses for people who come to California from other states to get an abortion.

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