The Justice Department gave its approval this month for the United States Postal Service to deliver abortion drugs to states that have banned the procedure. Walgreens and CVS have applied for certification to provide the pills through their online pharmacies.
But attorneys general from 20 states with strict abortion bans have issued a stark warning to pharmacies that following through on mailing abortion pills would violate federal and some state laws.
Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey wrote the letter. He spoke to ABC News Live’s Linsey Davis about why the attorneys general issued the warning and whether women who receive the medication could face prosecution.
DAVIS: Attorney General Bailey, we thank you so much for talking with us tonight. First, can you explain to us, the U.S. Justice Department has said that mailing these pills, which can have various of uses, that it does not violate federal law. Why do you and your fellow attorneys general believe that it does?
BAILEY: Well, it's a flawed reading of the statute, and someone somewhere is going to hold the Biden administration and these unelected federal bureaucrats accountable, because shipping abortion drugs through the mail absolutely does violate the plain text of federal statute and state law here in Missouri. And so for us, this is about protecting the rule of law. It's about protecting women and protecting children.
DAVIS: Why did you decide to spearhead this multistate warning to the pharmacies?
BAILEY: Well, at this point, the states are the vanguard in the fight against the rise of the unelected federal administrative state, and state attorneys general are the tip of the spear in that fight. And I'm proud to be leading this effort of 20 states, 20 like-minded attorneys general, who believe, like I do — that it's worth standing up and saying no and fighting back in order to protect children and protect the health of women.
DAVIS: Some, including abortion opponents, have expressed concern that this could result in the prosecution of women who receive the medications via the mail. Is that your intent?
BAILEY: Certainly not. This is not about prosecuting women. It's about protecting women's health and protecting children and holding corporations accountable if they attempt to violate state and federal law.
DAVIS: So, what would happen? I mean, that would be the end result, right? If I happen to live in your state and I want to get this mail shipped to me and I get the mail shipped to me, then would you prosecute me?
BAILEY: No, the law doesn't permit prosecution of women who obtain the drugs. The law is designed and intended to prevent the shipment of the drugs in the first place. And that's what our letter’s all about. It's directed towards the pharmacies who would ship the abortion drugs through the mail. Because I would also point out that these drugs are proven to be harmful. They're harmful to the health of the children first and foremost, but they're six times more likely to cause complications for women. And so, the health and safety of the women is codified in the prohibition of the shipment of these drugs. And the prohibition is against the pharmacies from doing it. And that's why we're standing up to protect the rule of law and enforce the laws as written.
DAVIS: So, I want to pick up on your idea there that it's harmful. In your letter to the pharmacies, you specifically say the medication abortion is higher risk than other methods. The American Medical Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists consider the method to be safe and effective in terms of the women's health and safety. What is your concern? Because you're saying that it's harmful. These doctors who specialize in abortions say that it's not.
BAILEY: Well, the research runs counter to what they're saying. But also, I would point out that the health and safety concerns, the health and safety of the women and children are codified in state and federal statute. The policy makers in government, our elected representatives, have spoken on this issue. And again, that's why it's about protecting the rule of law for us as much as it is about protecting the health and safety of women and children.
DAVIS: And I realize also, you're saying you're trying to protect the women and children. If the women have decided based on their own conversations with their doctors, that this is a safe alternative for them, then why not let them take the risk? I mean, risk comes with a lot of different kinds of medications, no?
BAILEY: Well, it's a rule of law issue for us. And I think that, again, is expressed in our letter. And 19 other state attorneys general agree with that proposition, that we've got to stand up and enforce the laws as written. The plain text of the statute means something. And so unelected federal bureaucrats and the Biden administration don't get to read out or read around the law by enacting and promulgating a rule that undermines the will of the people as expressed through their elected representatives. So, we're going to fight to enforce the rule of law.
DAVIS: Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, we thank you so much for your time and your insight.
BAILEY: Thank you, ma'am.