(Reuters) – Anti-abortion protesters broke into the room where Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc held its annual shareholders meeting in Newport Coast, California on Thursday for its decision to start selling abortion pills, the pharmacy chain said.
Walgreens and CVS Health Corp said on Jan. 4 that they plan to offer abortion pills following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision to allow retail pharmacies to offer the drug in the country for the first time.
“Today, directly after the close of official business of our annual shareholders meeting, a small group of protesters entered the meeting room without authorization,” Walgreens Senior Director for External Relations Fraser Engerman told Reuters.
“We are grateful that none of our shareholders, team members and event staff were harmed during this incident,” Engerman said in a written statement.
The FDA on Jan. 3 finalized a rule allowing retail pharmacies to sell mifepristone. However, pharmacies must still weigh whether and where to offer the pill given political controversy surrounding abortion in the United States.
“It was a wild annual shareholders meeting,” said Walgreens shareholder and AGM attendee John Chevedden. “The protesters knew what they were doing because they found a way to enter the room from behind the podium. It was a complete surprise.”
“Upon leaving the meeting there were about 50 noisy protesters with signs just outside of the resort grounds,” he said via email.
U.S. abortion rights were curtailed in 2022 when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to terminating pregnancies when it scrapped a landmark ruling in the 1973 Roe vs. Wade case.
“We believe strongly in the right to peaceful protest, and an area was set aside for this purpose, but unfortunately some protesters took further disruptive actions,” said Engerman.
(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein and Ross Kerber; Editing by Christopher Cushing)