Birth control restrictions hold back reproductive rights


Annie Zhang

PHARMACY POLICY. While Minnesota remains less affected by restrictions on birth control and abortions, boycotting and reaching out to state attorneys general and companies like Walgreens can still have an impact on these limitations.

Reproductive rights have always been a part of political debates in the United States, a constant back and forth of whether or not women should have control over their own bodies.

On February 1st, 2023, 20 Republican state attorneys general wrote a letter to Walgreens threatening legal action if they continued to sell mifepristone, a progesterone blocker pill that can terminate a pregnancy under 10 weeks, both in stores and through mail in a number of states. Shortly after, Walgreens chose to discontinue the sale of mifepristone in the 20 states that were represented by each of the attorneys. The list includes the 11 states where abortion is fully illegal, as well as nine other states that have heavy restrictions. So far, birth control remains legal in all states, even though many states carry restrictions.

However, reproductive rights should not be a political issue, rather a form of healthcare that should be available to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our society. Walgreens’ response to the Republican state attorneys reflects a larger value of the United States—that profit comes before well-being—specifically for the rights of women. It is irrational that these decisions are continuing to be determined by a male majority, where only three of the 20 attorney signatures were female.

Many of the states represented by these attorneys general were states where abortion has recently become illegal; however, eight of them have no such laws. While part of the role of a state’s attorney general includes defending the Constitution for the entirety of the United States, as well as arguing cases from state trial and the U.S. Supreme Court, nothing in their job description includes threatening a company over a political debate. The sale of mifepristone is currently legal under federal law, and especially considering the eight states that have no restrictions on abortion rights, it seems like a misuse of their power and authority.

The state of Minnesota has barely been affected by abortion restrictions and the Walgreens case, but it will be important to monitor as students travel to new states for college. With full access in Minnesota, students should be mindful of where their rights are being taken away, and how that might affect them moving forward.

While some may have already made the decision to no longer be a customer of Walgreens, the question of effectiveness comes into play. Boycotting is typically aimed at financial pressure, although it isn’t always the most efficient way to threaten a company’s revenue. According to an article from the Northwestern Institute for Policy Research, the majority of boycotters typically aren’t the target company’s main consumers. Walgreens is one of the leading drugstore chains in the United States, with almost two-thirds of Americans as customers, both retail and prescription based. In this particular case, the correlation between political values and consumer habits might not affect Walgreens customers, as the demographics of their customers seem too widespread.
Regardless of whether or not personal boycotting would affect Walgreens financially, boycotting is extremely effective in terms of publicity and damaging a company’s reputation. Other strategies might include writing letters to the company or the attorneys general, and continuing to have conversations about the reproductive rights situation.