Morning-After Pill Law Imposing Age Limits Blocked by Okla. Judge

A law requiring age restrictions for the morning-after pill in Oklahoma has been temporarily blocked by a county judge this week.

The law, which would have gone into effect on Thursday, requires women ages 17 and older to provide identification to a pharmacist before receiving the Plan B One-Step pill or other generic emergency contraceptives. The law would have also required women aged 17 and under to have a prescription to access the emergency contraception pills in the state. 

The legislation was signed by Gov. Mary Fallin in May as a section of House Bill 2226, which deals primarily with health insurance forms. The bill was created in response to the April announcement by the Federal Drug Administration that federal restrictions on age for the morning-after pill would be lifted, and all girls could purchase the pill without a prescription. This decision by the FDA was confirmed by the Obama administration in June. 

The New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights then filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice and the mother of a 15-year-old Oklahoma resident against the Oklahoma Pharmacy Board and the Oklahoma Attorney General, arguing that House Bill 2226 had violated the state's ban on logrolling, or putting more than one subject on one piece of legislation. The plaintiffs argued that because the state's morning-after pill age restrictions were passed as a part of a bill dealing primarily with health insurance forms, lawmakers were not given the opportunity to adequately address each subject. They also argued that the law discriminated against Oklahoma women.

Oklahoma County District Judge Lisa Davis issued a temporary injunction against the law on Monday, saying she believes the plaintiffs have a strong argument and therefore the law should be suspended until further court rulings are made.

Those supporting the legislation, including the state attorney general and governor, argue that the purpose of the law was to simply uphold the decade-long age restrictions and prescription requirements for the morning-after pill.

"We're disappointed the judge prevented the law from going into effect," said Diane Clay, spokeswoman for the state attorney general, E. Scott Pruitt. "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."

Patrick Wyrick, solicitor general for Pruitt's office, told Tulsa World that the measure did not serve as an example of "logrolling" because all measures listed on House Bill 2226 related to prescription drugs. Wyrick also argued that for years a prescription has been required to obtain the morning-after pill, and the legislation was just attempting to uphold that law.

Wyrick added to the Associated Press that the morning-after pill measure was added to House Bill 2226 because it was late in the 2013 legislative session and the deadline for filing new legislation had expired. "There is no evidence that this was logrolled into passage," Wyrick said. "It was just a matter of legislative necessity."

Martha Skeeters, president of the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice, which also served as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, told The Oklahoman that the judge's Monday decision was a good one, especially for young women in Oklahoma.

"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.

Opponents of the legislation are seeking a permanent injunction against the new law, but a court date for this challenge has yet to be set. The federal law that lifts restrictions on age for over-the-counter emergency contraceptives took effect Aug. 1.