Federal officials on Wednesday warned pharmacies that they could violate civil rights law if they refuse to fill prescriptions for pills that can induce abortion.
These drugs are also commonly used to treat conditions like stomach ulcers, miscarriage, and ectopic pregnancy, the Department of Health and Human Services says in its guidance, and even in states where medication abortion is now banned or restricted, not dispensing this pills "may be discriminating" on the basis of sex or disability.
Experts told The New York Times the Biden administration is reacting to reports that since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade in June, some women have been unable to fill prescriptions for drugs that can induce abortions but are used for other conditions as well. One of those drugs, methotrexate, is used to treat autoimmune disorders and cancer.
"These are very legitimate issues in terms of people being concerned about having access to the basic medications that they have been receiving for years, just because those medications have the capacity to end a pregnancy," Alina Salganicoff, director of women's health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told the Times. "It doesn't sound like they are blocking this for men."
B. Douglas Hoey, chief executive of the National Community Pharmacists Association, said in a statement that "states have provided very little clarity on how pharmacists should proceed in light of conflicting state and federal laws and regulations. It is highly unfair for state and federal governments to threaten aggressive action against pharmacists who are just trying to serve their patients within new legal boundaries that are still taking shape."
Earlier this week, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra reminded hospitals that federal law requires doctors to perform abortions for pregnant patients if it is "the stabilizing treatment necessary" during an emergency medical situation.