Gavin Newsom’s Absurd War on Walgreen’s For Following The law
Has there ever been someone who wants to be President of the United States so badly without running more than California Governor Gavin Newsom? There was no one person more disappointed when Joe Biden said he’d run for reelection (he hasn’t officially kicked off a reelection campaign, but his latest budget, a political messaging document if there ever was one, is a sure sign) than Newsom. Over the last six months, Newsom has spent more of his time on Twitter attacking Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott than fulfilling his duties as a leader in his state; he looks and acts like a man who is running for higher office without actually running.
His latest bromide is a silly and absurd attack Walgreens, after the pharmacy chain said it would not sell the abortion drug mifepristone, following receipt of a letter from 21 state attorneys general, saying it would violate the law. Naturally, the quandary for Walgreens comes in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which returned laws regarding abortion back to the states where it belongs. Everyone knew the issue would get legally messy going from one ridiculous court decision (Roe) back to the state legislatures and it is, and so what? Many laws governing a host of issues exist in one state that don’t exist in another. The sale of mifepristone is no different.
But Gavin Newsom doesn’t see it that way. He said the state would stop doing business with Walgreens who he says, “cowers to the extremists and puts women’s lives at risk.” Poetic. Apparently, he is pulling a state contract worth $54 million for its offense, and claiming it is “market leverage.”
No one ever called Newsom a genius, and it’s obvious he is not. Had Walgreens shunned selling mifepristone of their own volition, sure. But that’s not what happened here. Walgreens was merely following the law. That’s not “market leverage” or anything close to it, and as someone who ran a pretty successful business before he turned to politics, Newsom should know better. The government, by default, doesn’t adhere to market principles because it makes the laws that govern the market.
And again, the laws differ in various states. In the great state of New Jersey, I couldn’t get a bottle of vodka at the nearest Walgreens, but I can in Missouri. You can order a bottle Absolut online and pick it up at Walgreens in Missouri. In Virginia, every liquor store is state-owned and operated. Can you imagine Mike Parson declaring war on Walgreens for not selling hard liquor in X states because it is legal in his state? Such a scenario might knee-jerk one into saying, “mifepristone issue is different!” Of course, it is different, and it doesn’t matter. It’s the same principle.
The attorneys general in the 21 states have cited the 1873 Comstock Act that prohibits the mailing of any drug that will “be used or applied for producing abortion.” The Biden administration rejects that interpretation of the law and says it doesn’t apply to mailing abortion drugs when the sender has no reason to believe they will be used unlawfully. That kind of legal wizardry, I imagine, is why Biden thinks he has the authority to appropriate $500 billion in spending by wiping out $10K-$20K in student debt for 40 million people under a squinting reading of the 2003 HEROES Act.
“It is only illegal if what you send through the mail will be used illegally” is quite the take.
Imagine a Republican presidential administration applying that, to say, the mailing of firearms. The laws differ throughout the states (gasp!), but federal law requires someone mailing a gun across state lines to have the gun shipped to someone with a federal firearms license. A person cannot mail a gun directly to their friend in another state, even if both of them satisfy the legal means to purchase, own or possess one. Think of the reaction if the administration said, “Well, we interpret that law differently. If the sender has no reason to believe the gun will get used unlawfully, no biggie.” The explosion of heads across the country by gun control advocates would sound similar to the sonic booms generated by space shuttles after they launched.
The Biden administration’s preposterous interpretation of the law remains secondary to Newsom’s abuse of economic power. Federalism will sometimes result in nationwide businesses having to adjust to how they conduct business in different states, and it happens all the time. For Newsom to seek retribution against Walgreens for merely following the law of another state is infantile and sets a dangerous precedent, much more beyond anything Ron DeSantis did with his foolhardy action against Disney. The only people Newsom will hurt are citizens of California, many of whom rely on Walgreens for various reasons.
But hey, when 500,000 people have fled the state in the last two years, why not make it easier for people to leave, right?
Yes. Ron DeSantis.Report
BOOM! The Counselor takes it with first comment. I don’t know how anyone’s gonna top that!Report
Show your work please Burt…
Frankly I’m curious, because I think it’s close, but I’ve not been paying that much attention to either of them…Report
Biden doesn’t seem to feel any need to sling mud or insults at Newcom the way Trump does at DeSantis so that alone suggests DeSantis is desiring, and working, harder to be President without running than Newsom. Though ultimately it does involve reading a distant politicians heart- then again, they’re politicians, their hearts aren’t deep or enigmatic as a class.Report
A sitting president can’t attack an officeholder in his own party to fend off a primary challenge. Of course, Newsom isn’t planning on running against Biden, anyway; he’s positioning himself to run in his place.Report
I don’t exactly disagree with your points but even your own analysis suggests that Newsom “wants” to be President less than DeSantis does as there’s relatively no doubt that DeSantis will run against Trump whereas Newsom is, at most, simply stalking behind the old man in case he drops out and, if Biden doesn’t falter, won’t challenge him.Report
Is there any chance Biden gets rid of Harris?Report
Biden would need a really strong reason to court that kind of drama and he doesn’t have it.Report
My take is no. Harris checks a number of boxes that Biden needs on the ticket: person of color, female, urban westerner.Report
Biden couldn’t ditch her. He could thank her for her years of service as she left to become dean of a second-tier law school, but she’d have to
really sell that it was her choice, and she’d never willingly step down. Also, there really aren’t a lot of good VP picks out there for him. He’d probably go with Whitmer, although Cortez Masto would be a very smart move.Report
I think either of those would actually be pretty good picks, particularly Cortez Masto. But generally agree, Harris can’t be perceived as having been removed. That said I think her WAR is basically 0.0 so it doesn’t really matter in the greater scheme of things. She isn’t helping but anyone open to voting for Biden isn’t going to change their mind over her. Getting rid of her could well be seen as a slight to some important constituencies and it’s not really the kind of error I’d forsee Biden making.Report
I think Harris is more of a liability because of Biden’s age. But Joe would have an easier time changing his age than throwing her off the ticket.Report
Giving companies the authority to disobey State law at will is ending State Sovereignty.
That’s a weird stance for a State Governor to take, but presumably he doesn’t expect them to actually disobey the law.Report
I think the situation is more complicated than you are making it out to be.
According to a Politico article: Walgreen is bowing to AG pressure “in several states where abortion in general, and the medications specifically, remain legal — including Alaska, Iowa, Kansas and Montana”. I.e. the AG pressure is legally valid, but rather political. For those cases, Newsome has an equal right to apply his own counter-pressure.
Where this might get really interesting is when the FDA starts their program to allow pharmacies apply to the FDA for permission to dispense mifepristone. The question then is whether this FDA permission overrides any state bans. The national pharmacies might want to avoid being the test case for that legal battle by simply not applying in the anti-mifepristone states. (Which I suspect is a large part of the motivation for those statements by those anti-abortion A’sG). But Newsome’s actions let them know that not applying could have its own consequences.
But I do have to admit that even appearing to be even vaguely DeStantis-like is distasteful.Report
Expecting a company which has a large physical presence in Alabama (etc) to openly engage in illegal behavior is a bit much. I don’t see how that doesn’t end with their stores being shut down and/or their employees arrested.
The ideal pharmacies to do this don’t have a physical presence in the states which have outlawed abortion. So a small company in California might be able to mail drugs that are legal in California but outlawed in those states. There are some fig leaves they might dance around and they’re not subject to much pressure. They might simply be out of the reach of those state laws completely.
At a minimum they won’t end up having to defend their behavior in front of an Alabama judge.Report
When did Alabama pass a law outlawing abortion pills?Report
This is like saying outlawing murder doesn’t outlaw murder via guns.
Alabama has outlawed abortion. They’re focused on the people who enable/perform abortions rather than the women who get them.
A gun store owner who sells a gun to someone even though they know they’re going to kill someone with it has become a criminal. There are similar rules for banks to prevent money laundering. You don’t get to put on a blindfold and enable criminal activity which a child could see coming.
Or if you do, you can expect to need to explain to a judge why it’s reasonable for you to be doing this.
If you’re a California-only pharmacy, then you can claim what you’re doing isn’t a crime in California and Alabama has no jurisdiction over you. Wal-Greens can’t do that.Report
Did Alabama pass a law making it illegal to sell abortion pills?Report
Given that abortion itself is outlawed? I’m having a hard time saying there’s a big difference there.
No, it is not illegal for Walgreen’s to sell abortion pills in Alabama, or any other state besides Wyoming, which just yesterday became the first state to o so.
The 21 AG’s were, to use the legal term, “full of crap”, trying to use prohibitions on drug abuse to cover mifepristone.
The California AG can send a letter to sporting goods stores telling them that all guns are illegal in California, but it doesn’t make it so.
Which is a small point, since Walgreen’s is free to discontinue the sales for any reason, or no reason. But I felt the need to push back against the repeated invocation of ‘openly engaging in illegal behavior”.Report
Activity [X] is illegal.
You know this, you supply tools to let [X] happen, the only thing those tools can be used for is [X], you know the person you’re going to be supplying the tools to is going to do [X].
I am not a lawyer, but my strong expectation is aiding and facilitating [X] is already covered under existing laws.
It’s possible you’re dancing right up to the edge of the line but not over it and those 20 AGs are wrong… but I’m really hard pressed to think of other examples which fit the paragraph I laid out above that aren’t obviously illegal.
Driving the getaway car? Selling weapons to someone you know will kill someone with them? Supplying Alcohol to someone you know is going to be driving home?
Can you think of any examples?Report
What if we knew of other uses for it?
That’s one study for a potential other use.
Bleeding edge science is good, but it doesn’t overlap well with approved FDA dosage/duration guidelines for treatment. We’re not even in “off label” prescription territory here.
If you start handing out one abortion pill to one woman on a one time basis, complete with the other drug it’s paired with, then I don’t see how we can call this anything other than an abortion pill sold for the purpose of having an abortion.Report
I was actually looking for something else but ran across that. I was perusing Reddit and a woman commented on there that her doc had prescribed it for some condition she had. I wish I could remember what it was.Report
It treats Cushings disease.Report
I’m sure there’s extremely rare conditions where it would be useful.
However if WalGreens sells 100k of these pills, close to all of them will be for abortion.
The reverse is true for guns, pretty near all guns sold aren’t used for murder. Illegal use is a tiny fraction of the legal trade. Ditto cars and knives.
If every gun sold resulted in a murder victim, then we’d have no debate on what to do about gun control.
If you’re selling these drugs then you are an abortion provider and you shouldn’t be shocked if these states treat you as that.
The concept that WalGreens can openly sell these drugs without the legal establishment taking notice and arresting people strikes me as deeply farcical.
These states have criminalized this activity. That means men with guns and badges will be enforcing it.
Whether that’s a good idea or a bad idea is a different issue. Pretending that this isn’t where we are is ignoring reality.Report
I am not a lawyer, but my strong expectation is …
You should have started with that, then stopped.
You’re making an interpretation of the law, widening it to cover things not expressly covered by the enabling legislation.
Whether this could be effectively argued by a state AG or not, this is a far cry from “openly engaging in illegal behavior”.Report
First, your first statement disagrees with your second.
2nd, It would be stunningly incompetent for the CEO of a $28 Billion dollar company to have his employees engage in behavior that is going to have them arrested and tried in 20 states.
That the expected result is for them to be arrested and tried in 20 states with the AG arguing this to judges works very nicely as an example of “openly engaging in illegal behavior”.
This would be insane behavior for a CEO even if none of his people end up in prison for decades. And with 20 states trying to do exactly that, imho odds are good at least some of them would end up doing serious time.Report
IMHO what Newsom is doing is NOT “political pressure” since because of these risks there’s no way Wal-Greens can do what he wants.
What Newsom is doing is political grandstanding at Wal-Greens expense.Report
I am not the biggest Newsome fan but Peter Moore is right in that what’s going on is political pressure and what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
The larger matter is how this situation works with interstate commerce, which I expect to be playing out in the courts for years. Of course that is among the many reasons that what SCOTUS did is so radical and irresponsible. You can make some sound arguments that Roe was a step too far the day it was decided but trying to eliminate a negative right (in the legal sense) that’s existed for half a century is like trying to put toothpaste back in a bottle.Report
which returned laws regarding abortion back to the states where it belongs
As witness a Texas judge being encouraged by anti-abortion groups to ban mifepristone nationwide. As usual, states rights means they haven’t get the feds on their side yet.Report
TLDR How dare a Democratic politician advocate for liberalism and use the power of office to advance liberalism.Report
I’m more comfortable with individuals (or tiny companies that we can just shut down) openly disobeying the law than Fortune 500 companies. Walgreens is #18.Report
Um no. This is a legal, FDA approved drug. In this instance it’s being used on label for its original use. While some states might want to assert that they can regulate it the same way then can marijuana, as of right now none has declared it statutorily illegal to prescribe for its on label use.Report
The on label use has been outlawed in about 20 states.
I don’t see how you can claim that abortion (and providing abortion services) is legal in places where it’s illegal.
Basic civics suggests that’s not correct. I.e. local communities can outlaw various things and use local (but not state or federal) cops to enforce those rules. States can do the same and enforce rules with state and local authorities.
So if you’re going to be breaking [State X] laws, you’d better not be doing so where their cops have justification. Walgreens, with a physical presence in every state, can’t avoid these laws.Report