Alaska legislators say state Attorney General overstepped with Walgreens letter over abortion pill

The Alaska State Capitol doors have required key cards to unlock throughout the 2021 legislative session, June 16, 2021. (Photo by Andrew Kitchenman/KTOO and Alaska Public Media)
The Alaska State Capitol doors on June 16, 2021. (Photo by Andrew Kitchenman/KTOO and Alaska Public Media)

Alaska legislators urged Walgreens leadership to reconsider its decision not to sell the abortion drug mifepristone in the state after what they called “inappropriate pressure” from the state’s attorney general, Treg Taylor.

Nearly two dozen members of the Alaska House and Senate signed on to the letter and enclosed a copy of the state’s constitution, encouraging Walgreens CEO Rosalind Taylor to review it.

Rep. Zack Fields, D-Anchorage, said the Attorney General should not be able to “bully companies into undermining the constitutionally protected rights of Alaskans.”

“Our Attorney General may not like the (state) constitution, but it is the law of the land, and he doesn’t get to single handedly eliminate core rights of Alaskans,” Fields said.

Abortions and the drug mifepristone are legal in Alaska, and the state Supreme Court has ruled that the right to abortion is protected under the Alaska Constitution’s privacy clause.

But Walgreens announced they would not carry the drug in Alaska and 19 other states after Taylor joined other state attorneys general in signing on to a letter discouraging it. Walgreens has been in the process of getting certified to distribute the drug after a January rule change by the FDA allowing retail pharmacies to carry it.

In a written statement, Taylor’s office said that because Walgreens did not distribute the drug directly to patients in Alaska before the letter, the availability of the drug to Alaskans has not changed.

Fields says Walgreens is one of many places to get a prescription in his district in Anchorage. He’s boycotting the national chain.

There are about a dozen Walgreens stores in the state, mostly in Anchorage and other Railbelt communities. But Fields said the problem is bigger than Walgreens, and that other companies should know that abortions are constitutionally protected in the state of Alaska.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen an issue that prompted such anger,” he said. “I think it is unprecedented. It is particularly outrageous, and it needs to be addressed immediately.”

The Anchorage Daily News reported Sunday that pharmacists at Safeway, Costco and Fred Meyer have the drug in stock or available for people with prescriptions.

Alaska legislators are not the only elected officials balking at the Walgreens decision. NPR reported Tuesday that Walgreens shares fell nearly 2% after California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state would no longer do business with the company.

Claire Stremple

Alaska News Reporter

I believe every Alaskan has a right to timely information about their health and health systems, and their natural environment and its management. My goal is to report thoughtful stories that inform, inspire and quench the curiosity of listeners across the state.

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