Sen. Constance N. Johnson gathered with the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice (OCRJ) and its attorneys from the Center for Reproductive Rights Monday afternoon in praising a district court’s ruling for a temporary injunction against House Bill 2226. The bill would have required women over the age of the 17 to show identification to get the emergency contraceptive, Plan B One Step or its generic equivalent. The measure would have also required those under the age of 17 to have a prescription in order to get the newer version of the “morning after” pill, and would have made access available only through the pharmacist. The CRR attorneys successfully argued the case on behalf of OCRJ and the parents of a 15-year old Oklahoman.
Sen. Johnson said the ruling was a victory for Oklahoma women.
“I’m happy with Monday’s ruling in that it will help protect Oklahoma women from unintended births and give them the same access to emergency contraceptives that other women around the nation have,” said Johnson, D-Oklahoma County. “The FDA has ruled Plan B One Step to be safe and effective, but its use is time sensitive and must occur within 72 hours. By limiting immediate access, we force women into even more difficult situations that will forever change their lives. This bill meddles with a woman’s right to control her own body and life.”
According to the OCRJ, the national average for unintended births is 38 percent but in Oklahoma it is 48 percent. Oklahoma ranks seventh in the nation in teen pregnancy.
Dr. Martha Skeeters, OCRJ president, said Monday’s ruling will greatly benefit women in Oklahoma.
“The court’s ruling is good news for Oklahoma’s women and girls. Keeping them safe from unintended births is our top priority,” said Skeeters. “Oklahoma is the only state in the nation that has enacted this type of restriction limiting access to emergency contraceptives. I hope that this law will eventually be ruled unconstitutional and Oklahoma women’s rights on this issue will be protected.”
While Johnson was pleased with the ruling, she observed that the legislative process by which the bill was passed is typical during the last days of session when controversial proposals are inserted in conference committees. Johnson signed on as a coauthor when the bill was a Title 63/Public Health and Safety bill on health benefits. The two-sentence, Plan B One Step language in Title 59/Professions and Occupations was added during the conference committee process.
“Once again, we have acted in ways that not only violate the integrity of the legislative process but also our state Constitution regarding the one subject rule. We inserted this proposal at the eleventh hour in response to an earlier Food and Drug Administration ruling making Plan B One Step available on the shelf in drug store aisles, similar to condoms. The Courts have ruled consistently and correctly that this type of practice on the part of the Legislature is unconstitutional,” said Johnson. “Spending money defending unconstitutional bills is costly to the courts, the Legislature and taxpayers, especially when these dollars could be better spent supporting citizen well-being. The Constitution is simple – one bill, one subject.”
The new law, which was set to go into effect Thursday, is now delayed pending the outcome of the litigation and a final ruling on the constitutionality of the measure.
“The message today to Oklahoma pharmacies and women is that Plan B One Step is safe and, for now, accessible. The message to the Legislature is to utilize the legislative process in ways that protect, not harm, women,” said Johnson.