Abortion Pills on Pharmacy Shelves: An Embittered Battle for the Unborn

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Abortion Pills on Pharmacy Shelves: An Embittered Battle for the Unborn
Abortion Pills on Pharmacy Shelves: An Embittered Battle for the Unborn

Healthcare workers are pushing back against the increased promotion of abortion pills following a January ruling from the Food and Drug Administration, citing their religious rights to be exempted from selling the contraceptive pills. They are being joined in the fight against the abortion lobby by pro-life lawmakers, who are looking to further protect the unborn against the current administration’s anti-life policies.

The situation further highlights the current nationwide conflict between the Biden Administration’s relentless push for increased abortions in whatever form versus the renewed legal protection for the unborn following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.


On January 3, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalized a new rule which permits retail pharmacies and drug stores to sell the abortifacient drug, mifepristone. Announcing the new rule, which removes former FDA rules on limiting access to mifepristone, the FDA stated that the drug can be dispensed by pharmacies who receive the necessary certification. Receipt of the abortion pill would require a prescription, but the pill can then be dispensed to the person at the counter.

The move represented a significant expansion to access to abortion, as noted by abortion giant Planned Parenthood. The organization’s president Alexis McGill Johnson welcomed the FDA’s move, calling it “a step in the right direction for health equity.”

Johnson called the measure a “game changer for people trying to access basic health care…Today’s changes will help millions of people have more access to the care they need, when they need it.”

Drug store giants CVS and Walgreens were quick to jump on the new permission, declaring only one day later that they would take advantage of it. Women could thus collect abortion pills in their stores instead of at a doctor’s clinic. Some days later, Rite Aid followed suit and announced it would start the process to authorize the dispensing of mifepristone in its stores.

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Pro-life advocates realize how the FDA’s decision poses a danger to the unborn. Live Action president and CEO Lila Rose stated, “CVS and Walgreens will now be dispensing death-on-demand via the abortion pill.” She declared it “absolutely disgusting that your local pharmacist will now be dispensing poison that ends an innocent human life alongside antibiotics and allergy medication.”

Students for Life America president Kristan Hawkins echoed these sentiments: “Even as the death count of women taking chemical abortion pills has gone up along with the distribution of these deadly drugs, they claim there is nothing new to consider. This reckless abuse of power makes it easier for abortion vendors to profit by ignoring the needs of women.”

What Is Mifepristone?

The U.S. manufacturer of the drug, Danco, describes mifepristone (or Mifeprex) as being “97% effective in terminating early pregnancy” based on more than 20 years of usage by “more than 4 million women” in the U.S.

The company firmly downplayed the risks of taking the drug, stating that “approximately 3% of women will require surgical intervention for ongoing pregnancy, heavy bleeding, incomplete expulsion or other reasons such as patient request.”

Danco added, “[s]erious and sometimes fatal infections and bleeding occur very rarely following spontaneous, surgical, and medical abortions, including following Mifeprex® use.” However, the company denied a “causal” relationship between the drug and such effects.

The pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute states the drug is “safe and effective” and revealed that mifepristone—either on its own or used in conjunction with misoprostol—accounted for 53% of all the abortions documented in the U.S. throughout 2020.

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However, pro-life advocates have long warned about the hidden dangers to the mothers taking the pills, which the drug companies attempt to hide in their relentless push for increased abortion access. The Charlotte Lozier Institute recounts that the FDA’s original approval of Danco’s mifepristone was due to pro-abortion political pressure, resulting in skipping regular, key trials.

This approval, granted in 2000, was based “on a single published trial that was non-blinded, non-randomized, and utilized only a historical, non-concurrent control,” writes the Lozier Institute. The drug’s reputation as “safe and effective” is also protected due to the drug company “evading” the process for reporting adverse effects from the drug.

The Lozier Institute also writes that randomized trials of the drug have still not taken place as medical norms would require. Instead, “the FDA’s politically motivated waiver of the normal safety research protocols has simply been extended without ever looking back.”

Lozier Institute researchers showed that far from the drug being “safe and effective,” data from Finland reveal that 1 in 5 women using mifepristone to induce abortions experienced adverse effects, with 5.9% needing “surgical intervention.”

Additional data from Medicaid-funded abortions from 1999-2015 reveal that 35.5% of mothers using the drug to induce abortion needed ER treatment within 30 days of the abortion.

The Lozier Institute’s researchers concluded that “[clearly] chemical abortion is more hazardous to women’s health than surgical abortion.” What, then, is behind the push by legislators, drug companies, the FDA, and the abortion lobby to promote such drugs and make them more readily available?

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The simple answer may well be found in a desire to make abortion more efficient and less costly. According to the Lozier Institute, based on their research, the “only rationales” for so promoting chemical abortions are:

  • Reducing staff numbers is needed, which also maximizes profits for the abortion industry.
  • Solving problems with staff shortages in abortion mills performing surgical abortions by providing chemical abortions instead.
  • Further promoting abortion through government and institutional support, making it a “social engineering tool.”

On this last point, the Lozier Institute warned in December 2021 that permanently removing restrictions on chemical abortions, such as the FDA has now done, is part of a widespread campaign to reduce costs and simultaneously widen abortion access.

Health Staff Resist Abortion Push

However, as this blatant push from both government and the abortion industry to spread abortion drugs into pharmacies is enacted, staff in the self-same stores are suing, citing their religious rights not to distribute the abortion pill.

A number of former employees are taking legal action against CVS, which could derail the company’s attempts to distribute the abortion drug. One of those is J. Robyn Strader, a Christian nurse hired by CVS in 2016 to run a CVS Minute Clinic in Texas.

In 2021, CVS decided to “revoke” all religious exemption clauses for its staff, meaning that Strader could no longer cite this as a reason not to provide abortifacient drugs. Strader’s case argues that as a practicing Christian, she has never prescribed contraceptives or abortifacients, as to do so would violate her religious beliefs. At the time of her hiring, Strader’s religious exemption to dealing with such drugs was noted and verbally accepted by CVS.

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Following a change in policy in August 2021 which deemed the provision of contraceptive and abortifacient drugs part of company policy, CVS canceled religious accommodations, including Strader’s. As a result, she was terminated from her employment in October 2021. Her case mentions that CVS also fired other staff who similarly refused to provide such pills to women.

Another former CVS employee is also suing the company for the same reason. Paige Casey in Virginia, a practicing Catholic working at a CVS Minute Clinic, was also fired for refusing to provide abortion-inducing drugs. Like Strader, Casey’s employment ended due to CVS’ 2021 policy change which did away with her religious accommodation.

Still another nurse, Suzanne Schuler of Kansas, fell foul of CVS’ policy change. Her suit echoes the others: suing CVS for terminating her employment for not performing actions she argues would be a violation of her religious beliefs.

While these three cases predate the FDA’s January 2023 change to drug stores’ selling of mifepristone, the suits mark a key battle ongoing in light of the Supreme Court’s recent overturning of Roe v. Wade. Should the three women be successful, it will undoubtedly impact how CVS handles its distribution of mifepristone under the new FDA rules.

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But in addition to these three individual cases, the abortion industry is also facing a challenge from 22 state attorney generals. AGs from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho and Texas (to name but a few) wrote to FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf demanding the new policy be reversed. “In direct contravention of longstanding FDA practice and congressional mandate, the FDA’s rollback of important safety restrictions ignores both women’s health and straightforward federal statutes. We urge you to reverse your decision.”

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Nor is the fightback limited to strongly worded letters. Represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, a number of pro-life organizations led by American United for Life (AUL) are suing the FDA over the decision, stating that the FDA “never studied the safety of the drugs under the labeled conditions of use, ignored the potential impacts of the hormone-blocking regimen on the developing bodies of adolescent girls, disregarded the substantial evidence that chemical abortion drugs cause more complications than surgical abortions, and eliminated necessary safeguards for pregnant girls and women who undergo this dangerous drug regimen.”

Many amicus briefs have since been filed to support the case against the FDA, including from nearly 70 pro-life lawmakers. Led by Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) and Representative August Pfluger (R-Texas-11), 13 Senators and 54 Representatives joined AUL’s suit, arguing the FDA has “endangered the health of women and girls.”

“The FDA’s reckless decisions to approve and deregulate chemical abortion drugs put the profits and political agenda of the abortion industry over the law and abundant evidence that abortion drugs harm women, girls, and their unborn babies,” said Sen. Hyde-Smith. “These facts provide a clear legal basis to hold the FDA accountable for abdicating its responsibility to protect the American people from these dangerous drugs and for overstepping its authority under the law.”

Post-Roe America is one in which the pro-life battle is as real as ever before, as demonstrated by the renewed push from the abortion lobby. However, with such push-back on the individual, the corporate and state level, those who seek to promote abortion at every turn will find their actions checked and met with fierce opposition.

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