A Hard Pill to Swallow with Walgreens

March 14th, 2023 12:07 PM

California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom recently announced the state will not do business with the Walgreens store chain “or any company that cowers to the extremists and puts women’s lives at risk.” Notice the familiar buzzwords – extremists and putting women’s lives at risk.

Newsom’s statement followed an announcement by Walgreens that its pharmacies won’t dispense the Mifepristone abortion pill in states where abortion is illegal and in several other states where there are minimal or no restrictions, including Alaska, Iowa, Montana, and Kansas because of the “complexity and flux of the laws.”

One might wish the chain had taken a more principled stand, such as “isn’t the killing of more than 60 million babies too many?” Or, “what about the women who have been scarred for life – physically, emotionally and spiritually – by abortion and regret them?” Even so, the Walgreens statement sounds good for now, so far as it goes. For how long is the question, as pressure to provide the drug nationwide is likely to increase?

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-GA) have written the Government Accountability Office arguing the FDA’s new guidance about the drug may constitute a “rule” and thus becomes subject to Congressional review under the Congressional Review Act. In the letter they say, “The FDA did not submit this policy to Congress and we believe it is imperative that all agency rules remain subject to the full spectrum of congressional oversight afforded by law.”

When I was growing up in the Washington, D.C., area one pharmacy was dominant. It was called Peoples Drug Store. It is now CVS and long ago went nationwide. In the 1950s, if anyone wanted a product that was related to sex, such as condoms, one had to approach the pharmacy counter and request them. Usually this required teenage boys to speak to a woman, who could be relied on to offer a disapproving glance. She might have known our parents. These experiences, along with parental disapproval and embarrassment, kept many from heading down a road that has led to unwanted consequences, including out- of-wedlock pregnancy, abortion and STDs.

Today, condoms and other products related to sex are on the shelves along with cough drops, neck braces, soft drinks and plush toys. Self-checkout has eliminated any potential embarrassment for those who are able to experience that emotion in our modern culture where “anything goes.”

Gov. Newsom is seeking to use the power of his state to force Walgreens to comply with a point of view many in his state and the nation do not share. It reminds me of the pressure and subsequent boycott by gay activist groups against Chick-fil-A restaurants. The controversy arose because of contributions top management made to an organization that defends traditional marriage.

It didn’t matter that the activists failed to prove discrimination against gay people, whether in hiring or service. It smacked to me of a political and fundraising ploy and it backfired. Christian and conservative organizations urged people to show up on a certain day and buy chicken sandwiches. They did in droves and the boycott quickly ended. Supporting Walgreen pharmacies that don’t dispense the abortion pill would send a similar positive message to management.

There are other issues surrounding the abortion pill. Suppose an employee is pro-life and as a matter of religious faith believes abortion to be the taking of innocent life? Will that employee be excused from dispensing the pill and her or his job protected? The same question would apply to a pro-life pharmacist.

While it is increasingly difficult to launch successful boycotts against large companies, pro-lifers can take their business to Walgreens that don’t dispense the pill, or to independent pharmacies. It may not change the way most do business but it can satisfy one’s conscience that they are not part of what some consider a modern version of child sacrifice.