Republican South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and Attorney General Marty Jackley sent a letter to pharmacists in their state warning that they will be subject to felony prosecution if they dispense abortion pills in their state.
The joint letter was sent on Tuesday following changes by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stating that it will certify retail pharmacies to prescribe popular medications used in chemical abortions.
“Chemical abortions remain illegal in South Dakota. Under South Dakota law, pharmacies, including chain drug stores, are prohibited from procuring and dispensing abortion-inducing drugs with the intent to induce an abortion, and are subject to felony prosecution under South Dakota law, despite the recent FDA ruling,” the letter stated. “Their resources should be focused on helping mothers and their babies, both before birth and after.”
After the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision in June 2022 to return abortion laws to individual states, South Dakota’s 2005 trigger law went into effect that made abortions illegal in the state except to save the life of the mother, according to a statement from Noem’s office.
Noem announced a new website, Life.SD.gov, last year to promote “helping mothers and babies before and after birth” as part of the state’s pro-life focus.
“All abortions, whether surgically or chemically induced, terminate the life of a living human being,” Noem and Jackley added in the letter. “South Dakota will continue to enforce all laws including those that respect and protect the lives of the unborn. We trust pharmacists doing business in this state will take the same approach to respecting life.”
At least two other states, Florida and Alabama, have offered similar warnings to pharmacists in their states.
The Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration sent a letter following the FDA’s change warning pharmacies against dispensing abortion pills, citing state law that “no termination shall be performed at any time except by a licensed physician.”
In Alabama, Attorney General Steve Marshall even noted that women could be prosecuted for using abortion pills, despite the state’s law only criminalizing abortion providers and preventing prosecution against women who have abortions.
“The Human Life Protection Act targets abortion providers, exempting women ‘upon whom an abortion is performed or attempted to be performed’ from liability under the law,” Marshall said in a statement to AL.com. “It does not provide an across-the-board exemption from all criminal laws, including the chemical-endangerment law—which the Alabama Supreme Court has affirmed and reaffirmed protects unborn children.”
The FDA’s policy update earlier this month was followed by President Joe Biden issuing a presidential memorandum on Sunday to protect access to abortion pills to mark 50 years since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.
“My Administration remains committed to supporting safe access to mifepristone, consistent with applicable law, and defending women’s fundamental freedoms,” Biden said in the Sunday memorandum. “Defending and protecting reproductive rights is essential to our Nation’s health, safety, and progress. It is the policy of my Administration to protect against threats to the liberty and autonomy of those who live in this country.”
The FDA change on abortion pill access led to a group of 22 attorneys general sending a letter to FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf asking the agency to reverse its decision. The letter, led by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, argued that the distribution of abortion-inducing drugs poses a danger to women’s health.
“The Food and Drug Administration’s decision to abandon commonsense restrictions on remotely prescribing and administering abortion-inducing drugs is both illegal and dangerous,” the letter read. “In direct contravention of longstanding FDA practice and congressional mandate, the FDA’s rollback of important safety restrictions ignores both women’s health and straightforward federal statutes. We urge you to reverse your decision.”