South Dakota Gov. Noem threatens charges for abortion pills

FILE - South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem takes part in a panel discussion during a Republican Governors Association conference, Nov. 15, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. The South Dakota Legislature’s nine-week session is slated to begin Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, with all eyes on what lawmakers might do with the state’s $423 million surplus. Noem wants to use the money to cover repealing the state sales tax on groceries, a plan some of the state’s staunchest Republicans oppose. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, along with the state's Republican attorney general, said Tuesday the state will prosecute pharmacists who dispense abortion-inducing pills following a recent Food and Drug Administration rule change that broadens access to the pills.

The Republican governor and South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley released a letter to South Dakota pharmacists saying they are “subject to felony prosecution” if they procure or dispense abortion-inducing drugs. The state bans all abortions except to save the life of the pregnant person.

“South Dakota will continue to enforce all laws including those that respect and protect the lives of the unborn,” Noem and Jackley said in the letter.

The FDA earlier this month formally updated labeling for abortion pills to allow many more retail pharmacies to dispense them, so long as they complete a certification process.

The change could expand access at online pharmacies. People can get a prescription via telehealth consultation with a health professional and then receive the pills through the mail, where permitted by law.

Still, in states like South Dakota, the rule change’s impact has been blunted by laws limiting abortion broadly and the pills specifically. Legal experts foresee years of court battles over access to the pills as abortion-rights proponents bring test cases to challenge state restrictions.