Earlier this month, Politico broke news that Walgreens, the nation’s second-largest pharmacy chain, assured 21 Republican attorneys general that it would not dispense abortion pills in their states should the company be approved to dispense them. The decision was met with sharp protest by Walgreens customers, abortion rights activists, and Democrats, who accused the pharmacy of caving needlessly to pressure.

But fear of state prosecution is not the only factor shaping Walgreens’ decision-making. Another previously unreported constraint on the company is that its sole supplier of Mifeprex — the brand-name drug for the abortion pill mifepristone first approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2000 — circulated a list to its corporate clients in January naming 31 states that it would not supply the abortion medication to. Vox spoke with two sources who had reviewed that list recently.

The sole US distributor for Mifeprex is AmerisourceBergen, one of the largest pharmaceutical distribution companies in the world. (The federal government is currently suing AmerisourceBergen for allegedly distributing opioids while knowing they would later end up on the illegal market. The Pennsylvania-based company has denied this.) Back in January, AmerisourceBergen created its list of 31 states using as a source the website of the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive research organization that tracks state abortion restrictions, according to sources with knowledge of the list’s origin.

The list’s existence underscores the precarious state of abortion rights in the US in the wake of Dobbs v. Jackson — the 2022 Supreme Court ruling that struck down Roe v. Wade, effectively leaving abortion rights to each state. Walgreens drew condemnation for saying it would not dispense abortion pills, even in states where it’s currently legal to do so. AmerisourceBergen’s list indicates another reason influencing Walgreens’ stance: a distributor — it’s the only one for this drug — had signaled that it would not supply pharmacies with abortion pills….

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