Reproductive justice group seeks to mislead in policy debate

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: August 16, 2013

WORDS matter. They can be the difference between clarity and confusion, honesty and obfuscation. A recent statement by the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice is a case in point.

The OCRJ is suing to overturn an Oklahoma law requiring minors to have a prescription to obtain so-called emergency contraception, commonly known as the “morning-after pill.” Under a law approved this year, girls younger than 17 must have a prescription to obtain the pill, while those 17 and older must show identification.

OCRJ President Martha Skeeters decries the law as “part of a continued campaign against women's reproductive rights by anti-women legislators in the Oklahoma Legislature.” She adds, “It has taken over a decade for women in this country to see emergency contraception sold on the shelves without restriction, and Oklahoma women shouldn't have to wait even longer.”

This is where word choice matters — women's reproductive rights, a decade for women, Oklahoma women. The plain meaning of “women” suggests the law impacts adults. Yet the law's main restrictions apply to children. The primary focus centers on access to the morning-after pill for girls, not women.

Rather than seeking to clarify the issue, the OCRJ is trying to mislead the public. But there are reasons for policymakers to be concerned about a 12-year-old girl accessing the morning-after pill, reasons that may not apply to a 30-year-old woman. The OCRJ acts as though those distinctions don't exist or don't matter.

The most obvious objection for many will be that unfettered access to the morning-after pill can interfere with parental influence regarding an activity that can have life-altering repercussions for a child. There's also legitimate concern that unrestricted access could reduce reporting of sexual abuse because no medical professional will ever be made aware of a child's sexual activity. By providing an adult-free “solution” in the aftermath of abuse, unfettered child access to the morning-after pill could prevent abuse from coming to light, which would actually shield child molesters from exposure.

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