Pharmacies warned, withholding pills that could cause abortion violates federal law

The Biden administration issued a warning to pharmacies Wednesday, saying that denying women access to reproductive health medications is a violation of federal civil rights laws. 

On Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a warning to some 60,000 pharmacies nationwide. It stated pharmacies which receive federal funding cannot deny women access to reproductive health prescriptions or contraceptives.

"They're saying that you would be discriminating against women if you were to fail to provide these services to women on the basis of their pregnancy," said UC Hastings law professor David Levine.

Levine says concerns have arisen over the patchwork of state laws, some of which ban abortions or allow people to file civil lawsuits suing health care providers over abortions.

Some medications that could be in question are also prescribed for other conditions such as ulcers, rheumatoid arthritis, or to help women who have had a miscarriage. There is also concern about pharmacies limiting access to can be used for abortions.

Weeks after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, rallies for reinstating abortion rights continue. Dozens of people attended a march and rally at UC Berkeley Wednesday afternoon, answering a call for a nationwide walkout and protest.

"I used to never be a person who protested. I went here for undergrad, but I can't stand down anymore," said Shaili Patel, a U.C. Berkeley graduate student.

"People don't have access to their bodily autonomy anymore and that means...other people control them. And that's fundamentally wrong. It goes against the principles of free society," said Aidan Hill, a protestor from Berkeley.

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"I want people to call their senators and to vote for the women's reproductive rights act that's being voted on in the house on Friday," said Katie Walker, an Oakland resident who attended the rally.

Levine says the issue of prescriptions likely will face legal challenges and need to be settled in the courts.

"The pharmacist could have real concerns about being sued, being criminally prosecuted, so I see them being between a rock and a hard place," said Levine.