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Abortion pill availability

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WORLD Radio - Abortion pill availability

The abortion pill has become ground zero for the abortion debate in this country


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

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday the 7th of February, 2023.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up: The abortion pill. It’s become ground zero for the abortion debate in this country.

The most recent numbers show that chemical abortions made up more than half of all abortions recorded in the U-S. That percentage will likely go even higher as the Biden administration this year gave the green light to abortion pills by mail. The White House also invited brick-and-mortar pharmacies to get involved.

REICHARD: But pro-life groups are pushing back. WORLD’s life beat reporter Leah Savas has our story.

LEAH SAVAS, REPORTER: It’s a quarter till noon on Saturday, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. About 17 people wearing puffy winter coats in the 25-degree weather line a stretch of sidewalk outside of a Walgreens. Anne Adamczyk wears a purple coat and holds a white sign with black capital letters that read “WALGREENS PLANS TO KILL BABIES.”

ADAMCZYK: We're here because Walgreens, along with CVS and Rite Aid, have announced that they plan to offer the abortion pill. And not only is that not healthcare because it's killing babies, and not saving lives. It's also dangerous for women to be dispensed in this manner. There are a lot of dangers like an undiagnosed ectopic pregnancy and other problems with women not having a doctor available.

Other signs say things like “Keep abortion out of pharmacies” and “Boycott Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid.” Some drivers give a thumbs up or wave as they pass the group. Others do the opposite. Occasionally, someone rolls down a window to call out.

AUDIO: That doesn’t solve the problem!

This protest in Grand Rapids was just one of dozens of similar protests Saturday at pharmacies all across the country.

Pro-life groups started planning these protests in early January. That’s when news broke that the Food and Drug Administration would begin certifying brick and mortar pharmacies to fill prescriptions for the abortion pill. In the past, only certified medical professionals could distribute the drug.

Walgreens is one of the pharmacy chains that has already announced plans to become certified to dispense abortion pills.

AUDIO: [Sound from Walgreens]

But the company has said that becoming certified does not mean it’ll put the abortion pill in every store. Here’s Caroline Taylor Smith, director of public relations for the Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, or PAAU—the group that organized the protests.

SMITH: As far as we know, they will be looking at the specific stores and locations to decide which ones will be eligible and which ones they want to actually move forward with stocking with the abortion pill. If you are consistently protesting at one specific location, it's very possible that the corporation as a whole will decide that that location isn't eligible, and they don't want to move forward with it. Because there are so many people in the city that don't want it at that location.

PAAU partnered with several organizations in these events, including the Pro-Life Action League. Executive director Eric Scheidler explained another purpose of the protests.

SCHEIDLER: We want to alert the public of the fact that these pharmacies are going to be dispensing these drugs because many pro-life Americans may prefer to shop somewhere else for their prescription drugs and other pharmacy and drugstore needs.

Students for Life is planning a protest at the Walgreens headquarters in Deerfield, Illinois, on Valentine’s Day and another nationwide protest on March 4. The pro-life organization 40 Days for Life will hold its prayer campaigns outside some pharmacies later this month. On January 26, pro-lifers in California crashed the annual shareholders meeting of Walgreens' parent company to protest the move.

AUDIO: Walgreens, the abortion pill needs to stop!

Meanwhile, pro-abortion groups are still pushing to expand access to the abortion pill. Two lawsuits filed in January challenge state laws that protect unborn babies from drug-induced abortions. And on the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, President Joe Biden released a memo instructing his administration to look for more ways to help women get access to the abortion pill.

WHELAN: One of the obstacles that the administration faces is that in various states, there are state laws that criminalize the use of the abortion pill.

That’s Ed Whelan. He’s a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a former staffer at the Justice Department.

WHELAN: The administration is going to try to override those, it's going to try to claim that the FDA rule permitting the abortion pill overrides the state laws. And indeed, there are some lawsuits that manufacturers have filed. To try to get such a ruling. I think that's a remarkable stretch, but there will be judges who will be eager to accommodate claims like that.

Pro-life groups also have their own plans in the works. Back in November, Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit on behalf of a group of pro-life doctors challenging the federal government’s initial approval of the abortion pill in 2000. Julie Blake is senior counsel for ADF and is a part of the team representing the doctors.

BLAKE: These drugs were never proven safe, the FDA never had the legal authority to allow them onto the market. So our lawsuit asks the judge to order the FDA to remove the drugs from the market, or in the alternative, at least restore some of the safeguards on these drugs so that women and girls are protected from them in the meantime.

Blake said the federal judge over this case could technically issue an initial ruling as soon as February 10. But he'll probably take some time to read the paperwork all the parties have submitted before he issues a decision. And that will just be the beginning of the legal fight, which could drag on for months.

In the meantime, abortion advocates have encouraged people to stock up on abortion pills now while they still can. And pro-lifers continue to make their voices heard.

AUDIO: Stop the pill! It will kill! We will ban it yes we will! 

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Leah Savas in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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