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Walgreens says it won't distribute medication abortion pills in Montana

Boxes of the drug mifepristone sit on a shelf at the West Alabama Women's Center in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on March 16, 2022.
Allen G. Breed
/
AP
Boxes of the drug mifepristone sit on a shelf at the West Alabama Women's Center in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on March 16, 2022.

Walgreens pharmacies will not distribute medication abortion pills in Montana, although the procedure remains legal here.

A new federal rule adopted in January allows for pharmacies to distribute abortion pills.

But Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen is warning Walgreens and other companies against making the pills accessible. He was one of 20 attorneys general from around the country who signed onto a letter threatening legal action if the pharmacies begin distributing Mifepristone, the drug used for medication abortions. The attorneys general say they’re committed to protecting women and unborn children.

Patients previously obtained the medication directly from their health care providers. Martha Fuller with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana says the new federal rule could expand access to abortion services for rural residents.

“It makes it possible for providers who currently don’t provide medication abortions – it sort of eases the path for them to be able to provide that for their patients, which I think is really important,” Fuller says.

Walgreens and CVS have plans to obtain that certification, but Walgreens has decided to forgo distributing the medication in the 20 states that have threatened to take the company to court.

Many of those states represented in the letter have already banned or restricted abortion access, but the procedure remains legal in Montana. A 2021 law aiming to restrict the distribution of medication abortions via telehealth is blocked in court while a lawsuit is ongoing.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester is now calling on Walgreens and other pharmacies to reverse course, saying Walgreens’ decision “will prevent Montana women, especially in rural areas, from accessing legal medication that is prescribed by their doctors.”

Regardless of what private corporations decide to do, a judge in Texas has a case before himthat could limit, or eliminate, access to Mifepristone. The district court will hold a hearing Wednesday in the case challenging the federal government’s approval of the medication 20 years ago.

Copyright 2023 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Shaylee is a UM Journalism School student. She reports and helps produce Montana Evening News on MTPR.