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Montana pharmacies rethinking abortion pill amid controversy

Kyle Austin
Posted at 9:55 AM, Mar 09, 2023

Walgreens made national headlines this week when the pharmacy decided not to sell abortion pills in 21 states, including Montana, and it's already made an impact on one Billings pharmacy.

In January, the FDA changed a rule and opened the door for pharmacies to distribute abortion pills. Many pharmacies in Montana, including Pharm406 on the west end of Billings, planned to jump at the chance.

This week, Walgreens announced that it would not be selling the pills in 21 states where attorney generals had signed a letter warning that they would sue the national pharmacy chain if it offered the product in their states.

“As we’ve seen, there’s been more and more red tape making it difficult to get it and difficult to provide it to the communities,” Austin said at his pharmacy Wednesday afternoon. “Pharmacies don’t want to get caught in the middle of the political arena, whether it should be legal or shouldn’t be legal. We don’t want to and so we’re kind of leaning where we won’t carry it either."

It's a decision that Austin disagrees with as a pharmacist.

"I don't agree with it because it goes back to the government needs to make a decision," Austin said. "Is it legal or not legal? Healthcare providers need to put their personal views aside and they need to be there to serve the community."

One of those 21 signees was Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen. His office is applauding Walgreen's decision.

"Walgreens' decision is consistent with federal law and will help protect the safety of women and unborn children in Montana," Knudsen's office said in a statement.

Pharm406 does not carry the pill, and Austin said that the controversy surrounding the pill isn't the only reason why he may not opt to sell it. He said that the certification process can be cumbersome and timely.

“When you’re adding it into the every day of the pharmacy world, it comes down to ‘Do I really have time to do it?’" Austin said. "When things are difficult, pharmacies just don’t do it."

Regardless of what Pharm406 ultimately decides to do, he said the decision is a difficult one for pharmacies like his, which are committed to serving all customers no matter their political beliefs.

“At the end of the day, as a pharmacist here, I have to be open to everyone," Austin said. "I've got to leave my personal views at home, and I have to provide information and products to those that want it and need it."