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Abortion pill will be made available in Illinois from Walgreens

Abortion pill to be made available at CVS, Walgreens
Abortion pill to be made available at CVS, Walgreens 02:21

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The two largest pharmacy chains in the U.S. will soon start selling the abortion pill – and Walgreens will make it available in Illinois.

CVS and Walgreens announced Friday that they will start selling abortion pills as soon as this month. A phased rollout is coming, with the expectation that the drug will start being dispensed within a week.

Access to the drug mifepristone, commonly known as the abortion pill, will require a prescription. The Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone for abortions in 2000, deeming it a safe and effective way to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. 

Both CVS and Walgreens told CBS News they have become certified to dispense the pills following regulatory changes the FDA made last year that allow retail pharmacies to sell the pills.

Mifepristone is at the center of legal challenges. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide whether to restrict access to it in July.

Neither Walgreens' nor CVS' representatives would talk on camera Friday – instead sharing statements.

CVS said in a statement: "We've received certification to dispense mifepristone at CVS Pharmacy and plan to fill prescriptions for this medication in states where legally permissible. We're working with manufacturers and suppliers to secure the medication and are not yet dispensing it in any of our pharmacies. We'll begin filling prescriptions for the medication in Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the weeks ahead and will expand to additional states, where allowed by law, on a rolling basis."

Deerfield-based Walgreens said in a statement: Walgreens has completed the FDA certification process to dispense mifepristone and expects to begin dispensing within a week, consistent with federal and state laws. We are beginning a phased rollout in select locations to allow us to ensure quality, safety, and privacy for our patients, providers, and team members. We will begin dispensing in select locations in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, California, and Illinois."

CVS, Walgreens to sell abortion pill 02:22

The news follows regulatory changes made by the FDA last year allowing retail pharmacies to sell the pills - a move praised by President Joe Biden following the restriction of abortion access across parts of the country.

"Planned Parenthood of Illinois health centers have seen a 54% increase in patients that are seeking abortions, and those patients are coming from 40 different states throughout the country," said Rianne Hawkins, senior director of public policy and advocacy at Planned Parenthood of Illinois, "and to be able to visit a Planned Parenthood health center, receive a prescription, and be able to pick this up at a local pharmacy here in the state of Illinois, is a great win for access."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, medication abortion is the most common method of terminating a pregnancy in the United States. It is a method approved by the FDA for up to 10 weeks into a pregnancy.

Hawkins said the sale of mifepristone by Walgreens and CVS is a win for health equity.

"Especially to reduce the burdens for people to be able to access this medication and to receive the health care that they need," Hawkins said. "To be able to go to the neighborhood pharmacy -- you know, there's Walgreens and CVS virtually on every corner, and in almost every town in the state of Illinois. We're happy that Walgreens and CVS have decided to make this commitment to health equity and to have this medication available to patients that need it here in Illinois."

Meanwhile, Peter Breen, executive vice president and head of litigation for Thomas More Society - which opposes abortion – issued this statement:

"There's no reason to turn our neighborhood pharmacies into abortion clinics, or to force pro-life pharmacists and local pharmacy staff to be part of the chemical abortion business. CVS and Walgreens should reverse course and stay out of the abortion debate."

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