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August 9, 2013

Lawsuit to block pill law

OKLAHOMA CITY — A coalition of reproductive rights advocates filed a lawsuit Thursday to block enforcement of an Oklahoma law that restricts access to the morning-after emergency contraception pill.

The lawsuit filed in Oklahoma County District Court alleges the law, approved by the Legislature in May and signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin on May 29, is unconstitutional and discriminates against women by imposing restrictions on a form of contraception used only by women. It says the law is the only one of its kind in the nation.

The law, which received bipartisan support in the House and Senate, primarily deals with regulations regarding health insurance benefit forms. But a separate section requires women 17 and older to show identification to a pharmacist to obtain the Plan B One-Step pill and generic emergency contraceptives.

It also requires women under 17 to have a prescription to obtain them.

Martha Skeeters, president of the Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice which filed the lawsuit, said the federal government approved the morning-after pill for unrestricted, over-the-counter sales and that women in Oklahoma deserve the same access as women in every other state. The drug was approved in June and became available in pharmacies and grocery stores on Aug. 1.

“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,” Skeeters said.

The emergency contraceptive is designed to prevent pregnancy by preventing ovulation or fertilization and is not capable of terminating an existing pregnancy.

It is generally not effective more than 72 hours after sex.

The law’s author, Rep. Colby Schwartz, R-Yukon, said it was passed in response to the government’s decision to allow unrestricted access to the drug by adults and teens. Schwartz accused the government of overreaching its authority and said the statute was intended to maintain the status quo in the state.

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