News Contraception

Oklahoma Senate Votes to Require Prescriptions for EC for Those 17 and Younger

Robin Marty

SB 522 would force anyone under age 17 in need of EC to get a prescription, regardless of whether they have a valid ID.

The Obama administration continues to fight efforts to make emergency contraception (EC) available over-the-counter to all people of all ages. But while the administration and the courts go back and forth over EC, the Oklahoma senate has voted in favor of a bill diminishing access to EC, potentially forcing anyone under age 17 in need of EC to get a prescription first, regardless of whether they have a valid ID.

SB 522 states that “Plan B One-Step, or its generic equivalent, also known as the ‘morning-after’ emergency contraceptive, shall not be available to women under the age of seventeen (17) without a prescription. Such emergency contraceptive shall be dispensed by pharmacists to women seventeen (17) years of age and older without a prescription.” In addition to this restriction, the bill addresses, more broadly speaking, regulations and licensing of pharmacies. A similar bill, HB 2226, which is focused on insurance benefits, also includes an EC restriction.

SB 522 was adamantly opposed on the floor by Sen. Connie Johnson (D-Oklahoma City), who cited its potential impact on teen girls, who may be likely to fall into poverty or be forced to drop out of school because of an unwanted pregnancy.  “Why would we want to limit access to contraception other than a political agenda?” Sen. Johnson asked lawmakers prior to the vote.

Despite Sen. Johnson’s opposition, the state senate passed the bill with a 34-10 vote.

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SB 522 is just the latest attack on teens by the state legislature this session. Two bills that would drastically limit abortion access for teens, even in some cases with the support of a parent or guardian, have both passed this cycle and are expected to be signed into law by the governor.

News Law and Policy

Oklahoma Governor Signs Bill to Create Anti-Choice Public Education Campaign

Teddy Wilson

HB 2797 directs the Oklahoma State Department of Health to develop materials that “provide public information through public service announcements, media and otherwise for the purpose of achieving an abortion-free society.”

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) Monday signed into law a bill authorizing the state’s health department and local schools to provide “educational materials” to the public that “clearly and consistently teach that abortion kills a living human being.”

HB 2797 directs the Oklahoma State Department of Health to develop materials that “provide public information through public service announcements, media and otherwise for the purpose of achieving an abortion-free society.” 

The so-called Humanity of the Unborn Child Act, which was sponsored by Rep. Ann Coody (R-Lawton), also creates an optional instructional program for school students. Coody said the intent of the bill is to instruct teenagers that life begins at conception, reported the Tulsa World.

Joe Thai, who teaches constitutional law at the University of Oklahoma Law School, told the local NBC affiliate there are significant concerns about HB 2797.

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“There certainly would be a question whether or not mandating that teaching from one point of view of a hot political button issue is really where state public schools should be going rather than teaching math reading and writing and leaving abortion and other hot button issues to parents and to the pulpit,” Thai said.

Democrats also criticized proponents of the bill for their focus on abortion without any focus on sex education.

“You’re starting a book at the end,” Rep. Jason Dunnington (D-Oklahoma City) said, reported the Tulsa World. “A student in Oklahoma would learn about abortion and gestational cycles, but there would be no guarantee that they would learn about sex and pregnancy.”

House Democrats attempted to amend the bill during the house floor debate in March.

Rep. Emily Virgin (D-Norman) offered an amendment to the bill that would include a requirement that comprehensive sex education also be taught as part of the anti-choice curriculum. Dunnington also offered an amendment to “provide family planning services, including all forms of contraceptives.”

Both amendments were voted down by the Republican majority.

The GOP-dominated state legislature, in which Republicans hold a 70-31 majority in the house and a 39-9 majority in the senate, easily passed the measure. The house voted in May to pass the bill with a 69-15 vote, and it was then passed by the senate with a 42-1 vote.

The new law will take effect on November 1; however, the bill’s implementation is “contingent on the provision of appropriated funds or revolving funds designated for the State Board of Education for such purpose.”

News Abortion

Legal Abortion Care Could Soon End in Oklahoma (Updated)

Nicole Knight Shine

Federal courts have blocked similar Republican-led attempts to ban abortion care in other states. The Supreme Court this year refused to review the North Dakota GOP's ban on abortion care as early as six weeks of pregnancy, as well as Arkansas’ ban on abortion at 12 weeks of pregnancy.

UPDATE, May 20, 5:16 p.m.: Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) on Friday afternoon vetoed the state GOP’s total abortion ban, according to a report from CNN

An unprecedented measure to make providing abortion care a felony punishable by up to three years in prison now awaits the signature of Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R).

The GOP-backed SB 1552 outlaws abortions except to save the patient’s life. Physicians who perform abortions in other cases will lose their medical licenses and would be unable to obtain or renew a license.

The bill’s backer, Sen. Nathan Dahm (R-Broken Arrow), reportedly said he hoped the legislation might spur an overturn of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

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The governor has five days to sign the measure before it automatically becomes law, according to reports. Her representative told the Associated Press on Thursday that Fallin is withholding comment until her staff has time to review the anti-choice legislation.

With no discussion or debate, the state’s Republican-dominated state senate on Thursday voted for the bill 33-12, as the Associated Press reported, with a handful of Republicans joining Democrats in opposition.

State Sen. Ervin Yen (R-Oklahoma City), the only physician in the chamber, described the abortion ban as “insane” and voted against it.

Officials from the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) and the state medical association called the legislation, the first of its kind, unconstitutional.

Amanda Allen, the center’s senior state legislative counsel, called on the Oklahoma governor in a statement to “reject this cruel and unconstitutional ban.”

Fallin’s signature on the measure could set up an expensive legal fight.

CRR officials have challenged what it described as unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive health care in Oklahoma eight times in five years, according to a statement released Thursday. Those restrictions include measures to impose a forced 72-hour delay before a person can receive abortion care, and to outlaw the most common method of second-trimester abortion.

Federal courts have blocked similar Republican-led attempts to ban abortion care in other states. The Supreme Court this year refused to review the North Dakota GOP’s ban on abortion care as early as six weeks of pregnancy, as well as Arkansas’ ban on abortion at 12 weeks of pregnancy.