The Biden administration issued guidance to the country’s pharmacies Wednesday, warning them that they risk violating federal civil rights laws if they decline to fill orders for contraceptives or abortion medication.
The guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights comes less than three weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 landmark ruling that gave federal protection to abortion rights.
HHS issued the guidance to some 60,000 pharmacies in the United States that receive federal financial assistance, such as Medicare and Medicaid.
Under federal law, the HHS said Americans can’t be denied medication based on current, past, potential or intended pregnancy, or medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. Discrimination against people based on their pregnancy status is considered sex discrimination, the guidance says.
“We are committed to ensuring that everyone can access healthcare, free of discrimination,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “This includes access to prescription medications for reproductive health and other types of care.”
In reaction to the Supreme Court ruling on Roe vs. Wade, President Joe Biden pledged to protect women seeking the abortion pills from another state if their home state bans the medication.
He also said the federal government will protect a woman’s right to travel to seek abortion services out of state.
On Monday, the HHS also issued guidance saying doctors who perform abortions in emergency situations are protected under federal law regardless of state bans.
The department said “legally mandated, life- or health-saving abortion services in emergency situations” are allowed nationwide under the provisions of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act.
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