Two major U.S. pharmacy chains have announced they will begin dispensing the drug mifepristone, which has been prescribed for both abortion and early miscarriage, within the coming days.

Representatives of Walgreens and CVS announced the move March 1 in an interview with The New York Times.

Walgreens also issued a press release the same day, stating that it "expects to begin dispensing within a week, consistent with federal and state laws" in a "phased rollout in select locations to allow us to ensure quality, safety, and privacy for our patients, providers, and team members."

Both pharmacy chains have received certification from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to supply the drug under guidelines the agency issued last year. At present, the chains will only provide mifepristone in person, not by mail, in select states where both abortion and pharmacy distribution of abortion drugs is legal.

A synthetic steroid, mifepristone -- introduced 20 years ago -- works by blocking the hormone progesterone, which is necessary for pregnancy to continue. When used in combination with misoprostol, which causes contractions, it induces a "medication abortion" up to 10 weeks into a pregnancy. This regimen is now used for more than half of U.S. abortions, according to the abortion research firm Guttmacher Institute.

However, the same pills are also now prescribed to women who experience early pregnancy miscarriage in order to expel any fetal remains and residual pregnancy tissue from the womb. While misoprostol has been prescribed alone by OB-GYNs, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently updated its protocols to recommend a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol as more effective than misoprostol alone for early miscarriage care based on research published since 2018.

According to the National Library of Medicine, an estimated 26% of all pregnancies, and up to 10% of clinically recognized pregnancies, end in miscarriage, the loss of pregnancy less than 20-weeks gestation.

Because the Catholic Church teaches that all human life is sacred and must be respected from conception to natural death, it opposes the use of medicine when it is intended to cause direct abortion, which takes the life of the unborn child. However, the church also does not oppose the use of medicine when it is intended for restoring the body to health or life, which it calls "precious gifts entrusted to us by God."

Walgreens plans to offer the mifepristone in select pharmacies in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania, while CVS will distribute the drug in all of its Massachusetts and Rhode Island pharmacies.

In a March 1 statement, President Joe Biden called the pharmacy chains' announcement "an important milestone in ensuring access to mifepristone," and encouraged "all pharmacies that want to pursue this option to seek (FDA) certification" to do so.

However, in a press release issued the same day, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America lambasted the move, citing mifepristone's longstanding, morally illicit usage for early abortion.

"As two of the world's largest, most trusted 'health' brands, the decision by CVS and Walgreens to sell dangerous abortion drugs is shameful, and the harm to unborn babies and their mothers incalculable," Kate Daniel, SBA Pro-Life America's state policy director, said.

Daniel accused the Biden administration of "pushing to turn every pharmacy and post office in America into an abortion center for the sake of abortion industry greed," claiming the FDA under Democratic presidents has "illegally rolled back basic safety standards, like in-person doctor visits, even allowing these deadly drugs to be sent through the mail."

Daniel noted the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments March 26 for FDA v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine and Danco v. Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine, which involve legal challenges to the FDA's regulatory approval of mifepristone.