News Law and Policy

Judge Permanently Blocks Oklahoma Law Restricting Emergency Contraception

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The law, which reinstated restrictions lifted by the Obama administration, violates the state's "single-subject" rule.

An Oklahoma judge ruled late Thursday that a state law designed to make it more difficult to access emergency contraception in the state is unconstitutional, and permanently blocked the state from enforcing it.

Judge Lisa Davis issued the ruling from the bench during a January 23 hearing challenging HB 2226. The law, passed last spring, attempted to reinstate restrictions on access to emergency contraception that have been removed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The primary focus of HB 2226 is regulating health insurance benefit forms, but the law 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, and requiring those under age 17 to have a prescription to obtain it. Those identification and age restrictions were lifted by the FDA following an extensive legal battle led by the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) that resulted in the FDA approving Plan B One-Step for unrestricted, over-the-counter sale. Because the law contains two distinct subjects, Judge Davis ruled it was in clear violation of the state’s “single-subject” rule, a state constitutional rule designed to prevent abuses of power by the legislature by prohibiting politicians from addressing unrelated issues in a single law.

In August 2013, 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, arguing the law violates the Oklahoma Constitution’s single-subject rule. The lawsuit also claimed 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. Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, a state judge temporarily blocked the law from taking effect while the legal challenge moved forward. Thursday’s ruling makes that block permanent.

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“Oklahoma’s restrictions on emergency contraception are blatantly discriminatory and a clear violation of the state’s constitutional protections against abuses of power by the legislature,” said CRR staff attorney David Brown. “This unconstitutional provision was nothing more than an attempt by hostile politicians to stand in the way of science and cast aside their state’s constitution to block women’s access to safe and effective birth control.”

Thursday’s decision is the latest in a string of defeats for anti-choice lawmakers in the state. In December 2012, the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down laws that required patients seeking abortions to see an ultrasound image, while hearing a description of the fetus and that banned off-label use of some abortion inducing drugs. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear both challenges, but it declined.

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