On Thursday night, an Oklahoma district court judge permanently struck down a state law that prevented some teenagers from buying Plan B over the counter, ruling that the restriction was essentially an abuse of power by the legislature.
The law would have required girls under the age of 17 to obtain a prescription and show identification in order to buy emergency contraception, an unnecessary age restriction that seriously hampers teen girls’ ability to prevent unintended pregnancies. Gov. Mary Fallin (R) approved the measure last year, just a month before the Obama administration approved over-the-counter Plan B for girls of all ages.
But Oklahoma County District Judge Lisa Davis — who had already issued a temporary injunction to block the law — ultimately determined that the measure violates the state’s “single-subject rule.” Lawmakers aren’t allowed to address multiple unrelated issues in a single piece of legislation, and the emergency contraception restriction was tacked onto a law about health insurance regulations.
The ruling is a victory for the Center for Reproductive Rights, the group that brought a lawsuit against the restriction last August.
“This unconstitutional provision was nothing more than an attempt by hostile politicians to stand in the way of science and cast aside their state’s constitution to block women’s access to safe and effective birth control,” David Brown, a staff attorney for the organization, said in a statement. “We hope the court’s ruling sends yet another strong message to politicians in Oklahoma that these underhanded tactics are as unconstitutional and deceptive as they are harmful to women in their state.”
Despite the fact that Plan B hit pharmacy shelves over the summer, some women are still struggling to access it, thanks to ongoing confusion about the federal and state regulations regarding emergency contraception. And Oklahoma isn’t the only state to attempt to impose state-level restrictions on the morning after pill. Conservatives have been laying the groundwork to push for more state laws to undermine over-the-counter Plan B access, and this type of legislation was recently introduced in Mississippi.