BOSTON – The state pharmacy board ordered Wal-Mart on Tuesday to stock emergency contraception pills at its stores in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts becomes second state to require the world's largest retailer to carry the morning-after pill.
A Wal-Mart spokesman said the company would comply with the directive by the Massachusetts Board of Pharmacy and is reviewing its nationwide policy on the drug.
"Clearly women's health is a high priority for Wal-Mart," spokesman Dan Fogleman said. "We are actively thinking through the issue."
Wal-Mart now carries the pill only in Illinois, where it is required to do so under state law. The company has said it "chooses not to carry many products for business reasons," but has refused to elaborate.
The unanimous decision by the pharmacy board comes two weeks after three women, backed by abortion rights groups, sued Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart for failing to carry the drug in its 44 Wal-Marts and four Sam's Club stores in Massachusetts.
The women had argued that state policy requires pharmacies to provide all "commonly prescribed medicines."
The morning-after pill provides a high dose of hormones that women can take up to five days after sex to prevent pregnancy. Some abortion opponents believe emergency contraception is a form of abortion because it blocks the fertilized egg from being implanted on the uterine wall.
CVS, the state's largest pharmacy chain, stocks the pill at all of its pharmacy locations, as do the state's other major pharmacy chains.
Sam Perkins, a lawyer for the three women, praised the board's decision and said he was prepared to sue in other states should Wal-Mart not overturn its policy. Abortion rights groups and women's organizations have also urged Wal-Mart to change its policy.
"I'm proud to be able to tell my patients that they now can go anywhere for their prescriptions," said one of the plaintiffs, Dr. Rebekah Gee, 30, of Boston. "My patients should not have to shop around."