A judge blocked a measure Monday that would have forced women to show identification when buying “morning after” emergency contraceptives and required girls under 17 to have a prescription for the medication.
The law was scheduled to take effect Thursday.
The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights is seeking to overturn the law, saying it is unconstitutional and discriminates against women. The group filed a lawsuit earlier this month on behalf of Jo Ann Mangili, of Mounds, who has a 15-year-old daughter, and the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, which has about 1,000 members.
Oklahoma County District Judge Lisa Davis issued a temporary injunction to block the law, which was contained in House Bill 2226, from taking effect. The injunction will remain in place while the lawsuit challenging the law proceeds.
After a 10-year legal challenge led by the Center for Reproductive Rights and a federal court order, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June approved a widely used brand of emergency contraception — Plan B One-Step — and generic emergency contraceptives for unrestricted, over the counter sale.
As of Aug. 1, the product is available in the family planning aisle of pharmacy and grocery store shelves across the country, including in Oklahoma, to women of all ages.
The generic name of the medication used in Plan B One-Step is levonorgestrel. It is an emergency contraceptive that is taken after sexual intercourse to prevent pregnancy, and it is to be taken as soon as possible. It is not capable of terminating an existing pregnancy.
Mangili, a registered nurse, said she wanted to preserve her daughter's right to obtain the contraceptive without obtaining a prescription.
“Teens feel that they don't have a way out, and they feel, whether rightly or wrongly, they have no one to talk to and they take drastic measures,” she said. “The FDA has approved this. … I don't see why this drug should be blocked.”
Martha Skeeters, president of the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, said the judge's ruling is good news, especially for younger Oklahoma women and teens.
“This really will help to prevent unintended pregnancies among all women in Oklahoma, particularly among teens, which is very important given that Oklahoma is seventh among states for teen pregnancies,” she said.
About 12 women supporting efforts to stop the law from taking effect attended the 45-minute hearing. They wore pink T-shirts, with some that read “Trust Oklahoma Women.”
Diane Clay, spokeswoman for state Attorney General Scott Pruitt, said the attorney general's office is disappointed with the ruling.
“The law simply keeps requirements the same as they have been for more than a decade, requiring those under age 17 to have a prescription to buy Plan B emergency contraceptives,” she said.
David Brown, a staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the law attempts to reinstate restrictions on access to emergency contraception that have been removed by the FDA, resulting in unique limits on the ability of women in Oklahoma to get the medication.
“There is no other state in the country that has enacted these kinds of restrictions on Plan B,” he said. “This (order) will ensure that Oklahoma women enjoy the same access to Plan B … that women and teens in every other state enjoy.”
Brown said the law also violated the single-subject rule in Oklahoma's constitution.
The language dealing with the restriction was filed as an amendment in May during the final days of this year's session.
HB 2226's original language dealt with regulating health insurance benefit forms.
Patrick Wyrick, solicitor general for the Oklahoma attorney general's office, said the measure's intent was to make sure girls had some type of conversation, especially with a health care professional, before they took the emergency contraceptive.
Wyrick said the amendment was filed because the FDA considered changing its policy in April; the deadline to file measures is January.
The Republican-controlled Legislature easily approved HB 2226. It passed the House 69-9 and passed the Senate 31-10. Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, signed it into law May 29.