News Law and Policy

Lawsuit Challenges Oklahoma Emergency Contraception Restrictions

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a lawsuit Thursday arguing the state's age and proof-of-identification requirements violate the state's constitution.

The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) filed a new legal challenge Thursday against an Oklahoma law that places unnecessary age and proof-of-identification barriers on women’s access to emergency contraception (EC).

The law, HB 2226, attempts to reinstate restrictions on access to EC, which had been removed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), thus imposing unique limits on Oklahoma women’s ability to get the medication. HB 2226 passed largely without much attention to it, because it primarily focused on regulating health insurance benefit forms, but the law also includes an unrelated and discriminatory provision requiring women age 17 and older to show identification to a pharmacist in order to obtain Plan B One-Step and generic emergency contraceptives and requiring those under 17 to have a prescription to obtain them. Because of that additional and unrelated provision regulating EC, argues CRR, the law clearly violates the Oklahoma Constitution’s “single-subject rule,” a provision which was designed to prevent abuses of power by the legislature and limits state laws to address only one issue at a time.

In addition, CRR’s legal challenge argues that HB 2226 discriminates against Oklahoma women by imposing arbitrary and unjustified restrictions on a form of contraception used only by women. “Politicians do not have the right to discriminate against the women in their state by singling out a form of birth control that only they can use,” said David Brown, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “We are confident that the courts will continue to uphold the clear protections afforded by the Oklahoma Constitution for all women living in the state and will immediately block this law.”

CRR filed its lawsuit in state court on behalf of Jo Ann Mangili, an Oklahoma mother of a teen daughter, and the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, a membership organization dedicated to promoting reproductive justice through education, empowerment, and advocacy.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

The Oklahoma lawsuit is a continuation of a decades-long legal battle to make EC widely available for all who need it. It wasn’t until a federal court ordered the Obama administration to stop caving to political pressure that the FDA finally approved one form of EC, Plan B One-Step, for unrestricted, over-the-counter sale. As of August 1, the product is supposed to be available in the family planning aisle of pharmacy and grocery store shelves across the country, including Oklahoma, to women of all ages. HB 2226 puts that access in jeopardy.

The Oklahoma legislature has a long history of violating the state constitution’s single-subject rule, and the Oklahoma Supreme Court has struck down five different laws in the last five years on those grounds. For example, the state’s law requiring a woman seeking an abortion to undergo an ultrasound and hear the images described even if she objects was first struck down as a violation of the state’s single-subject rule. The state legislature went on to pass the ultrasound requirement as a stand-alone bill, which was struck down as unconstitutional by the Oklahoma Supreme Court in December 2012. Reproductive rights advocates expect the court will do the same here, but in the meantime its citizens will have to pay for lawmakers to defend yet another unconstitutional abortion restriction.

“The opponents of women’s rights in the Oklahoma legislature are like the worst kind of broken record, repeating their attempts to deny Oklahoma women essential reproductive health care again and again and again,” said Bebe Anderson, director of the U.S. legal program for the Center for Reproductive Rights in a statement. “At a time when the federal government has taken an historic step to make emergency contraception more available to millions of women across the country, these hostile politicians have chosen to stand in the way of progress and cast aside their state’s constitution to impose arbitrary barriers on safe and effective birth control.”

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (R-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

News Abortion

Parental Notification Law Struck Down in Alaska

Michelle D. Anderson

"The reality is that some young women face desperate circumstances and potentially violent consequences if they are forced to bring their parents into their reproductive health decisions," said Janet Crepps, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. "This law would have deprived these vulnerable women of their constitutional rights and put them at risk of serious harm."

The Alaska Supreme Court has struck down a state law requiring physicians to give the parents, guardians, or custodians of teenage minors a two-day notice before performing an abortion.

The court ruled that the parental notification law, which applies to teenagers younger than 18, violated the Alaska Constitution’s equal protection guarantee and could not be enforced.

The ruling stems from an Anchorage Superior Court decision that involved the case of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands and physicians Dr. Jan Whitefield and Dr. Susan Lemagie against the State of Alaska and the notification law’s sponsors.

In the lower court ruling, a judge denied Planned Parenthood’s requested preliminary injunction against the law as a whole and went on to uphold the majority of the notification law.

Like This Story?

Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Donate Now

Planned Parenthood and the physicians had appealed that superior court ruling and asked for a reversal on both equal protection and privacy grounds.

Meanwhile, the State of Alaska and the notification law’s sponsors appealed the court’s decision to strike some of its provisions and the court’s ruling.

The notification law came about after an initiative approved by voters in August 2010. The law applied to “unemancipated, unmarried minors” younger than 18 seeking to terminate a pregnancy and only makes exceptions in documented cases of abuse and medical emergencies, such as one in which the pregnant person’s life is in danger.

Justice Daniel E. Winfree wrote in the majority opinion that the anti-choice law created “considerable tension between a minor’s fundamental privacy right to reproductive choice and how the State may advance its compelling interests.”

He said the law was discriminatory and that it could unjustifiably burden “the fundamental privacy rights only of minors seeking pregnancy termination, rather than [equally] to all pregnant minors.”

Chief Justice Craig Stowers dissented, arguing that the majority’s opinion “unjustifiably” departed from the Alaska Supreme Court’s prior approval of parental notification.

Stowers said the opinion “misapplies our equal protection case law by comparing two groups that are not similarly situated, and fails to consider how other states have handled similar questions related to parental notification laws.”

Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) officials praised the court’s ruling, saying that Alaska’s vulnerable teenagers will now be relieved of additional burdensome hurdles in accessing abortion care. Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, CRR, and Planned Parenthood represented plaintiffs in the case.

Janet Crepps, senior counsel at CRR, said in a statement that the “decision provides important protection to the safety and well-being of young women who need to end a pregnancy.”

“The reality is that some young women face desperate circumstances and potentially violent consequences if they are forced to bring their parents into their reproductive health decisions. This law would have deprived these vulnerable women of their constitutional rights and put them at risk of serious harm,” Crepps said.

CRR officials also noted that most young women seeking abortion care involve a parent, but some do not because they live an abusive or unsafe home.

The American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society for Adolescent Medicine have said minors’ access to confidential reproductive health services should be protected, according to CRR.