The governor of California said on Wednesday that he would not renew a multimillion-dollar contract with Walgreens, after the pharmacy chain announced that it would not dispense an abortion pill in 21 states that had threatened legal action.
The governor, Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said he had directed the California Department of General Services to notify Walgreens that it would withdraw a planned renewal of the contract that was supposed to take effect on May 1. He said the state had paid Walgreens $54 million over the life of the contract, which allowed it to get specialty prescription drugs that were mostly used by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
“California will not stand by as corporations cave to extremists and cut off critical access to reproductive care and freedom,” Mr. Newsom said in a statement.
Walgreens has found itself in the middle of the intense political and legal debate over abortion rights since the Supreme Court last year overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a federal constitutional right to abortion. After Republican attorneys general in 21 states threatened legal action against pharmacy chains that sold the abortion pill mifepristone, Walgreens said it would not distribute the drug in those states.
The pharmacy chain’s decision was met with instant backlash from some customers and politicians in Democratic-led states. Mr. Newsom said on Monday that California would stop doing business with Walgreens and that he had ordered a review of all of the state’s contracts with the company.
Fraser Engerman, a spokesman for Walgreens, said in an email on Wednesday that the company was “deeply disappointed” by California’s decision “not to renew our longstanding contract due to false and misleading information.”
“Walgreens is facing the same circumstances as all retail pharmacies, and no other retail pharmacies have said that they would approach this situation differently, so it’s unclear where this contract would now be moved,” he said.
Mr. Engerman said the company’s position had always been to distribute the abortion pill where it was legally allowed to do so.
“We will dispense this medication consistent with federal and state laws,” he added.