NEW LAWSUIT: Oklahoma Law Restricting Emergency Contraception Violates State Constitution, Discriminates Against Women

Center for Reproductive Rights seeks to block law keeping emergency contraception behind the counter before it takes effect Aug. 22

(PRESS RELEASE) The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a new legal challenge today against an Oklahoma state law placing unnecessary barriers on women’s access to emergency contraception.

While HB 2226 primarily focuses on regulating health insurance benefit forms, it also includes an unrelated and discriminatory provision requiring women 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. 

The Center’s legal challenge argues the law clearly violates the Oklahoma Constitution’s “single-subject rule”—which was designed to prevent abuses of power by the legislature and limits state laws to address only one issue at a time—and discriminates against Oklahoma women by imposing arbitrary and unjustified restrictions on a form of contraception used only by women.

“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. 

“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.”

HB 2226, which was signed by Governor Mary Fallin on May 29, attempts to reinstate restrictions on access to emergency contraception which have been removed by the FDA, thus imposing unique limits on Oklahoma women’s ability to get the medication.

The Center filed today’s 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.

“Women in Oklahoma deserve the same reproductive health care as all other women living in the United States,” said Martha Skeeters, president of the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice. “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.”

Following a decade-long legal battle lead by the Center for Reproductive Rights and a federal court order, the FDA finally approved a widely-used brand of emergency contraception—Plan B One-Step—for unrestricted, over the counter sale on June 20. As of August 1, the product is available in the family planning aisle of pharmacy and grocery store shelves across the country, including Oklahoma, to women of all ages.

“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.”

The Oklahoma Legislature has a long history of violating the state constitution’s single-subject rule, with the Oklahoma Supreme Court having struck down five different laws in the last five years on those grounds.

When 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 Oklahoma Supreme Court stated in March 2010: “We are growing weary of admonishing the Legislature for so flagrantly violating the terms of the Oklahoma Constitution. It is a waste of time for the Legislature and the Court, and a waste of the taxpayer’s money.”  

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.

The Center for Reproductive Rights represents the plaintiffs in Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice v. Oklahoma State Board of Pharmacy along with Anne Zachritz in Oklahoma City and Martha Hardwick of the Hardwick Law Office in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma.