On Monday, a state judge ruled that an Oklahoma law placing unnecessary barriers on women’s access to emergency contraception cannot take effect pending the outcome of a lawsuit challenging the law on the grounds it violates the state’s constitution.
HB 2226 is an attempt by conservative lawmakers in the state to reinstate restrictions on access to emergency contraception that have been removed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The law primarily focuses on regulating health insurance benefit forms, but it also includes an unrelated provision requiring women age 17 and older to show identification to a pharmacist in order to obtain Plan B One-Step, a widely-used brand of emergency contraception, and requiring those under the age of 17 to have a prescription to obtain it. Those restrictions were lifted by the FDA following an extensive legal battle led by the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR). As a result of that legal battle in June, the FDA approved Plan B One-Step for unrestricted, over-the-counter sale and as of August 1 the product is available in the family planning aisle of pharmacy and grocery store shelves across the country, including Oklahoma, for women of all ages.
After the restrictive Oklahoma law was passed, CRR filed a 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. CRR’s lawsuit argues that the law violates the Oklahoma Constitution’s “single-subject rule,” which prohibits politicians from addressing unrelated issues in a single law. The lawsuit also claims the new restrictions discriminate against Oklahomans by imposing arbitrary and unjustified restrictions on birth control that uniquely limit an Oklahoma person’s ability to get the medication.
CRR Staff Attorney David Brown said in a statement in response to the ruling, “Once again Oklahoma politicians’ efforts to turn back the clock on women’s health and rights have been blocked. And perhaps this latest in a long and growing list of federal and state court decisions vindicating women’s fundamental right to the full range of essential reproductive health care will at last put an end to the assaults of politicians bent on stripping away rights that all women must be guaranteed.”
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As a result of the ruling, Oklahomans will have access to emergency contraception as required by the FDA order while the court looks at the merits of the legal challenge.