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Plan B: How State Laws Changed WalMart's National Policies

After Massachusetts last month ordered Wal-Mart to stock the "Plan B" emergency contraception pill, Wal-Mart this past Friday announced that, effective March 20, all Wal-Mart pharmacies nationwide will carry emergency contraception, reversing the companies previous policy-- part of a trend of Wal-Mart changing its national policies in response to state laws. Illinois also requires pharmacies to stock the prescription drug and the emerging trend in state laws made Wal-Mart change its policy:
"We expect more states to require us to sell emergency contraceptives in the months ahead," said Ron Chomiuk, vice president of pharmacy for Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart. "Because of this, and the fact that this is an FDA-approved product, we feel it is difficult to justify being the country's only major pharmacy chain not selling it."
Adding to the pressure was an announcement last Thursday by Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal that the insurance plan for 188,000 state employees and retirees should no longer cover prescriptions at Wal-Mart unless the retail giant agrees to stock emergency contraception pills. This victory reflects the power that states wield to change the policies of even the largest company in the country. This is also reflected in Wal-Mart's scrambling in recent weeks to upgrade health benefits for its employees as states move increasingly to require large companies to provide health benefits. And in many cases, workers denied overtime or minimum wages by Wal-Mart have used more favorable state labor laws to bring lawsuits against the company-- putting pressure on the firm to improve conditions. The lesson from the various Wal-Mart campaigns is clear-- progressives don't have to wait for action on Capitol Hill to fight for and win national victories.