Last Friday, CVS and Walgreens announced they will begin dispensing mifepristone this month. This is one of two drugs used for pharmacological abortions. The two large drugstore chains said they will dispense it in states where abortion is legal.

At a time when women’s reproductive rights are under attack across the country, this sounds like good news.

CVS and Walgreens said they received certification to dispense mifepristone following a rule change finalized by the Food and Drug Administration in January 2023, NBC News reported.

The FDA decision expanded the availability of abortion pills by allowing pharmacies to dispense them to patients in person or by mail. Although neither CVS nor Walgreens were sending the medication by mail yet, the regulation will enable them to dispense them.

How does mifepristone work?

Mifepristone is the first of two pills used in medication abortions. The second is misoprostol.

Mifepristone terminates the pregnancy, while misoprostol empties the uterus. Scientists developed the drug in 1980, and countries like France began using it in 1987. The United States approved its use up to seven weeks gestation in September 2000.

Following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, mifepristone has become the safest and most accessible route for termination of pregnancy.

In fact, U.S. studies claim that the medication is approximately 95% effective in terminating pregnancy. It requires additional medical follow-up less than 1% of the time.

How does the CVS and Walgreens decision affect Latinas’ right to access abortion?

While Republican states restrict access to reproductive care, the decision by CVS and Walgreens makes it easier for communities like Latinas to make crucial decisions promptly.

While anti-abortion activists have called the drug “risky and ineffective” and launched a witch hunt against healthcare providers, the FDA’s change makes access more direct.

Now, women in states such as California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania will have easier access to the medication. This is crucial in cases such as rape or incest.

“We are beginning a gradual rollout in select locations that will allow us to ensure quality, safety, and privacy for our patients, providers, and team members,” Walgreens said in a statement.

CVS said it is “working with manufacturers and suppliers to secure the medication and are not yet dispensing it” at any of its pharmacies.

The statement added that pharmacies will begin filling prescriptions in Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the “coming weeks” and then “expand to additional states, where permitted by law, on an ongoing basis.”

For their part, organizations such as the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice have welcomed the news

“We are thrilled to learn that Walgreens and CVS will begin dispensing mifepristone, a safe and effective medication used as part of medication abortion, to individuals in several states,” Lupe M. Rodriguez, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice, told FIERCE. “Making this critical medication available at your local prescription pharmacy will increase access for Latinos and immigrant communities. This is essential, time-sensitive health care that should not have any medically unnecessary barriers or restrictions.”

However, while this is good news, these organizations warn that there are still “millions of people” in states with abortion bans. Similarly, the Supreme Court must decide a case that could “drastically restrict access to mifepristone.”

“These abortion bans and restrictions fall hardest on Latinas and other communities of color, who may work multiple jobs that do not provide them with sick days or insurance coverage and live in underserved communities,” Rodriguez added.    

“We must continue to fight for full access to abortion care for all communities. We will not stop until we create a country with true reproductive freedom for all.”