Newsom says California will cut ties with Walgreens over abortion pill access

Gov. Gavin Newsom talks, gesturing with his left hand, as he gives the inaugural address after taking the oath of office
Gov. Gavin Newsom gives the inaugural address on Jan. 6 in Sacramento.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

In an attempt to counter GOP efforts to limit reproductive rights, Gov. Gavin Newsom said California will cut ties with Walgreens over the company’s decision to stop selling abortion medication in 20 Republican states.

“California won’t be doing business with Walgreens — or any company that cowers to the extremists and puts women’s lives at risk,” Newsom tweeted Monday. “We’re done.”

Newsom’s missive is the latest political maneuver from the governor in the national battle between red and blue states over abortion rights since the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision last summer.


Using the force of the California economy, Newsom is attempting to push back on the pressure GOP leaders are putting on retailers to cut off access to abortion medication in their states.

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Attorneys general in 20 GOP-led states sent a letter to Walgreens and CVS last month threatening legal action if the retailers sold abortion pills by mail in their respective states. On Friday, Walgreens responded and said it would not sell the medication in those states.

Newsom’s tweet, his spokesman said, was “a shot across the bow.”

“Companies seem to be caving to political pressure from right-wing extremists and there are consequences for those decisions,” Anthony York said.

Shares of Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. fell 1.8% on Monday after Newsom’s announcement. The Illinois retailer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

How California might stop doing business with Walgreens and what impact such a move could have on Californians was not immediately clear. Newsom’s aides said Monday that his administration did not have any details on what cutting ties would entail and was only beginning to review all relationships between Walgreens and the state, including Medi-Cal and Covered California contracts.

On Wednesday, Newsom’s office said the state would not renew at least one $54 million contract between the California Department of General Services and Walgreens that “allows the State to procure specialty pharmacy prescription drugs, primarily used by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and its correctional healthcare system.”


The contract would have renewed on May 1 and the state said DGS informed Walgreens Wednesday of its decision to withdraw from the agreement. The governor’s office said the state “instead will explore other options for furnishing the same services” and continue to review other contracts with Walgreens that could be terminated.

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Advocates for Californians who receive state-sponsored healthcare said it was difficult to determine if the decision to sever ties with the retailer would affect patients given the lack of details.

Newsom has a tendency to seize on hot-button political issues and make attention-grabbing announcements before he has determined how the state will carry out his plan.

The governor declared his desire to pass a windfall profits penalty on oil companies last fall in response to record gasoline prices in California. He and lawmakers are still trying to figure out how to cap the industry’s profits in a special legislative session.