The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

April 2, 2014

Okla. House panel passes morning-after pill limits

OKLAHOMA CITY — Legislation requiring anyone under 17 to have a prescription to purchase the so-called morning-after pill got approval from an Oklahoma House committee Tuesday, in spite of concerns by opponents that it could lead to more unwanted pregnancies, especially among teenagers.

The House Public Health Committee voted 7-3 for the Senate-passed measure and sent it to the full House for a vote. The bill is similar to a law that was struck down as unconstitutional on a legal technicality by an Oklahoma County judge in January. The federal government has approved unrestricted over-the-counter access to the emergency contraceptive.

The author of the bill, Rep. David Derby, R-Owasso, said its goal is to limit access to the drug to young girls and require that they consult with a doctor to determine whether they are medically capable of taking it. The bill authorizes pharmacists to dispense it to those 17 and older without a prescription.

Opponents, including Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, said the measure will likely lead to more unwanted teen pregnancies.

“The best way to prevent an abortion is to prevent an unwanted pregnancy,” said Cox, an emergency room physician.

“There’s access to oral contraceptives now,” Derby said.

Cox said that in 2010, a total of 2,018 babies were delivered in Oklahoma by girls 17 years old or younger. The next year, when the Plan B One-Step pill became available, that number fell to 1,750, Cox said.

“Yes, there’s some side effects to it,” Cox said, but noted that the emergency contraceptive has been approved for unrestricted access by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“We presently do not do what the federal government does,” Derby said.

During the debate, Cox criticized the House’s Republican majority caucus, of which he is a member, which he said promotes legislation that limits the reproductive rights of women.

“It’s time we stopped it,” Cox said. “This bill is prejudiced against women. We don’t want a young woman to control her own destiny.”

The bill is similar to legislation adopted by the Legislature last year that required women under 17 to have a prescription to get the morning-after pill and older women to show identification to a pharmacist to obtain the Plan B One-Step pill and generic emergency contraceptives.

That was struck down by District Judge Lisa Davis, who said the measure, which primarily dealt with regulations regarding health insurance benefit forms, contained more than one subject in violation of the state Constitution’s single-subject rule. Davis had earlier handed down a temporary restraining order against the bill’s enforcement, and so it never took effect.

The law was challenged by the New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights, which issued a statement Tuesday saying the latest proposal “would put arbitrary barriers between young women and time-sensitive, safe and effective birth control.”

“It is unconscionable that politicians in Oklahoma, which has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the nation, would erect more barriers to a young woman’s access to contraception,” the center said.

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