Attorney General James defends access to reproductive health care at New York’s big pharmacies

AG James reminds CVS and Walgreens that New Yorkers’ refusal
Access to reproductive health services is illegal in New York

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James has taken action to protect New Yorkers’ access to prescriptions and reproductive health products at CVS and Walgreens pharmacies. Employees at CVS and Walgreens stores in other states have reportedly refused to provide birth control, condoms, emergency contraceptives and/or other reproductive health medications to customers. Attorney General James sent letters to both CVS and Walgreens reminding the drugstore giants that it is illegal in New York to deny customers prescription or over-the-counter drugs or products related to reproductive health care.

“Pharmacies have a responsibility to keep New Yorkers healthy, including by providing drugs and reproductive health products,” said Attorney General James. “Actions taken by some CVS and Walgreens employees in other states have raised concerns across the country and raised serious questions that need to be addressed.” Let me be clear: I will not accept New Yorkers being denied access to essential health care products and services. I am proud to stand up for the reproductive rights of New Yorkers and will always fight to preserve access to birth control and other reproductive health medications and options.

New Yorkers seeking contraception or other reproductive health products at these two major chains are eligible to receive these essential products. Reports from other states indicate that some employees at CVS and Walgreens have refused to provide reproductive health products or services, and some Walgreens employees have even mistreated consumers by publicly harassing, shaming, and shaming them. In his letters, Attorney General James made clear that such conduct by CVS or Walgreens employees at any of their more than 1,000 locations in New York State is a violation of New York’s public health and civil rights laws.

Attorney General James is demanding that CVS and Walgreens provide more information about their opt-out policies, which Walgreens says allow pharmacists to opt out of filling a prescription they have moral objections to. It appears that the policy may in practice infringe on the rights of New Yorkers. Attorney General James is also demanding that Walgreens and CVS provide more information about:

  • The time CVS and Walgreens consider “timely” to fill a prescription or complete a sales transaction when there has been a refusal.
  • Educating companies on cancellations and related policies.
  • Any documentation regarding whether CVS and Walgreens are tracking waivers and/or whether such prescriptions and OTC sales are filled and/or filled in a “timely” manner.
  • All complaints about CVS and Walgreens refusals at New York City locations for the past six years.

Attorney General James is a leader in the fight to protect abortion rights and access to reproductive health. In June, Attorney General James called on Google to fix search results that direct abortion seekers to dangerous and misleading anti-abortion clinics in New York. Last week, the attorney general praised the fact that after her letter, Google fixed that problem and improved search results. In May, Attorney General James supported state legislation to create a state program to provide financial resources to abortion providers in New York and called for an amendment to the New York state constitution guaranteeing the right to an abortion.

Attorney General James recently launched a toll-free legal hotline to provide legal guidance and resources to patients, health care providers and advocates seeking information about their legal rights to access and obtain abortions. The hotline is free and available in the 12 most common languages ​​spoken in New York. To access the hotline, dial (212) 899-5567. For more information, visit https://ag.ny.gov/reproductivehealth

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Jason L. Meislish of the Bureau of Fraud and Consumer Protection and Assistant Attorney General Nancy Trasande of the Bureau of Civil Rights. The Bureau of Fraud and Consumer Protection is led by Bureau Chief Jane M. Asia and Deputy Bureau Chief Laura J. Levin and is part of the Economic Justice Division, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Chris D’Angelo. The Civil Rights Bureau is led by Deputy Bureau Chief Travis England and is part of the Social Justice Division, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Megan Foe. The Division of Economic Justice and the Division of Social Justice are overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.

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