20 Republican attorneys general warn CVS, Walgreens against selling abortion pills by mail

A group of 20 Republican attorneys general warned CVS and Walgreens in a letter Wednesday that they could face legal consequences if they sell abortion pills by mail in their states.

The letter, from Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, said selling the pills would violate abortion laws in the state. It was cosigned by attorneys general in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.

FDA ruling allows pharmacies to offer abortion pill

Last month, the FDA ruled retail pharmacies could get certified to dispense the abortion pill mifepristone and agree to accept prescriptions from certified providers.

CVS and Walgreens have previously said they intend to provide the drug in states where it is legal to do so.

Walgreens is working to become eligible to dispense mifepristone through an FDA-mandated certification process that requires pharmacies to meet standards in shipping, tracking and confidentially storing drug-prescribing records, Fraser Engerman, a Walgreens spokesperson, said in a statement.

"We fully understand that we may not be able to dispense Mifepristone in all locations if we are certified under the program," Engerman said.

WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT ABORTION PILLS: Medication abortion may be the next focal point in the fight over abortion access

What legal action could be taken against pharmacies?

Bailey didn't specify what legal action he would take.

"I will enforce the laws as written," Bailey said in a statement. "That includes laws protecting the health of women and their unborn children. The FDA rule is in direct violation of federal law, and the unelected bureaucrats at the FDA have no authority to change Missouri law, either. The people’s elected representatives have spoken on the issue of abortion in our state, and we will fight to uphold that in court."

Letter argues mailing abortion pills violates federal law

The letter also argues that federal law prohibits sending or receiving abortion pills by mail.

This refers to the Comstock Act, an 1873 law that sought to restrict the delivery of contraception and items considered "obscene." It contains language prohibiting mailing "any article or thing designed or intended for the prevention of conception or procuring of an abortion."

But the Justice Department last month cleared the U.S. Postal Service to deliver abortion pills, ruling the Comstock Act does not prohibit mailing the pills because senders cannot typically know if the recipient will use them illegally.

MORE ON DOJ RULING: Justice Department clears Postal Service to deliver abortion pills

Lawsuits target medication abortion access

In two ongoing court battles, lawsuits are arguing states cannot regulate or restrict drugs that are FDA-approved. One of the lawsuits targets North Carolina's restrictions on medication abortion. The other, in West Virginia, targets the state's abortion ban.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed by the anti-abortion group Alliance Defending Freedom is attempting to reverse the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, which was approved for medication abortion in 2000. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists call mifepristone a safe and effective abortion medication and component of treatment and management for early pregnancy loss or miscarriage.

Dig deeper: 50th anniversary of Roe v Wade

Contact Christine Fernando at or follow her on Twitter at @christinetfern.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: GOP attorneys general warn against selling abortion pills by mail