Oklahoma has already enacted some of the most stringent abortion restrictions in the nation. Nonetheless, the GOP-controlled legislature currently advancing two additional measures to compromise women’s access to reproductive health care — one that would impose the same restrictions on abortion providers that are currently closing dozens of clinics in Texas, and another that would prevent teens younger than 17 from buying Plan B over the counter.
But not every Republican in the state is supportive of the recent push. Rep. Doug Cox (R) is speaking out against the proposed anti-choice legislation. Cox attempted to amend the first bill to include dermatologists in the medical professionals who are regulated by the state, saying that makes about as much sense as placing additional restrictions on abortion providers. And he blasted the second bill for being unnecessary and biased against young women.
Cox pointed out that teen pregnancy is still an issue in Oklahoma. The state’s teen birth rate is the second highest in the nation, and more than 2,000 girls under the age of 17 gave birth in 2010. The state lawmaker noted that if the state prevents teens from being able to buy emergency contraception without a prescription, girls will lose out on important resources to control their sexual health.
“This bill is prejudiced,” Cox said. “It’s prejudiced against women. A 14-year-old boy can go to the truck stop and buy all the condoms he wants. He can control his destiny. This bill takes the ability to control their destiny away from women. But that’s what we do in the Republican Party these days.”
Cox also disputed the notion that some young girls may not be able to take the morning after pill safely, since there’s no scientific evidence that this type of contraception is potentially dangerous. “Probably more people are allergic to latex condoms than have a reaction to Plan B,” he said.
This isn’t the first time the Oklahoma legislature has attempted to impose additional restrictions on emergency contraception. Last year, Gov. Mary Fallin (R) signed a law that required girls under the age of 17 to obtain a prescription and show identification in order to buy the morning after pill — a state-level restriction that was approved just one month before the Obama administration approved over-the-counter Plan B for girls of all ages. But an Oklahoma district court judge struck down that measure at the beginning of this year, saying the measure violates the state’s “single-subject rule” because it was tacked onto an unrelated law about health insurance regulations. So lawmakers are trying again with a standalone bill on the issue.
It also isn’t the first time Cox has taken a stand for women’s health. Over the past year, the GOP lawmaker has repeatedly criticized his party’s ongoing War on Women. “What happened to the Republican Party that I joined? What happened to the Republican Party that felt that the government has no business being in an exam room, standing between me and my patient?” Cox, who is a practicing physician, lamented in an op-ed published last May.
Cox was the most recent recipient of Planned Parenthood’s Barry Goldwater Award, an annual recognition of an outstanding public official in the Republican Party who has demonstrated a commitment to women’s health issues. The national organization noted that he has argued against over 160 anti-choice bills during his time in the state legislature.