HHS says pharmacies risk violating civil rights laws if they deny access to drugs that can be used for abortion.

The Department of Health and Human Services warned U.S. retail pharmacies on Wednesday that they risk violating civil rights law if they deny access to abortion drugs under certain circumstances.

The HHS Office of Civil Rights said pharmacies cannot deny access to reproductive health prescription drugs based on the buyer’s gender, pregnancy status, and other protected groups under federal discrimination laws.

This may include prescribing an abortion pill, mifepristone, used in combination with misoprostol, to help with first trimester miscarriages. According to HHS guidelines issued to 60,000 retail pharmacies in the country, the drug can also be used to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

HHS also said pharmacies risk violating civil rights law if they refuse to write a prescription for methotrexate to prevent ectopic pregnancy.

People who believe the pharmacy is discriminating against them can file a complaint with the HHS Office of Civil Rights, a department spokesman told reporters on Wednesday. According to the official, complaints will be considered on an individual basis.

“The Department is committed to improving maternal health, including for women who have had a miscarriage, and vigorously enforcing our civil rights laws is one way we plan to do so,” says HHS guidance issued to 60,000 retailers. country pharmacies.

The Affordable Care Act prohibits federal financial assistance recipients from discrimination based on sex, race, color, national origin, age, and disability. According to HHS, federal civil rights law prohibits discrimination based on current, past, or intended pregnancy, or pregnancy-related medical conditions.

Medicines used to terminate pregnancies have become a point of contention between the Biden administration and states that ban abortion after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. USA. Wade last month, who has defended procedure as a constitutional right for nearly 50 years.

The FDA approved mifepristone over 20 years ago as a safe and effective way to terminate pregnancies up to 10 weeks. In December, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it would permanently allow women to get pills by mail from licensed health care providers.

But the states that banned abortion after the Supreme Court ruling also banned the use of abortion drugs. Abortion bans usually make exceptions for the procedure when a woman’s life is in danger.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Justice Department will take action against states that ban mifepristone because they disagree with the FDA’s decision that the drug is safe and effective. But most of the states that banned abortion drugs in the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court decision did so on the basis that they abort a pregnancy, not because of questions about the pill’s safety or effectiveness.

The Center for Reproductive Rights called on the Biden administration to declare a public health emergency to expand access to mifepristone. Over the weekend, the president said he had asked health officials in his administration to look at the impact declaring a public health emergency could have on the availability of abortions.

But Jen Klein, director of the White House Gender Policy Council, told reporters Friday that the administration has concluded that declaring a public health emergency is not the best response to states’ abortion bans.

“When we looked at the public health emergency, we learned a couple of things. First, it doesn’t free up a lot of resources. “So it didn’t seem like a great option,” Klein said. “And it doesn’t absolve you of significant legal authority either. That’s why we didn’t take that action.”