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FAQ: What we know about contraceptive access in Oklahoma

IUDs
Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition / Unsplash
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A range of contraceptive methods: DMPA, vaginal ring, IUD, emergency contraceptive, contraceptive pills

KOSU is putting together a series of FAQ guides on reproductive health care questions. With conversations happening all around us on what is or isn’t legal following the overturn of Roe v. Wade, we’re wanting to cut straight to what we do know is available and accessible. This FAQ focuses on contraceptive access and use in Oklahoma.

This guide will also include basic information about contraceptive access through Indian Health Service, a government run agency that provides health care to thousands of Indigenous people across the country and in the state.

Here are some of the questions we’ve been hearing and seeing:

Will my insurance still pay for my birth control pills? 

  • None of Oklahoma's new laws affect birth control coverage. If your insurance was already covering birth control, it will continue to.
  • Because of a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, your employer can deny birth control coverage. So, if you aren’t sure whether that is covered, contact your Human Resources department or insurance company. 

Is getting an IUD still an option for contraceptives in Oklahoma?

  • Yes, it is still an option. Oklahoma’s laws limiting abortion explicitly say they don’t affect  IUDs —  otherwise known as intrauterine devices. They’re plastic or copper devices that are implanted in the uterus to prevent pregnancy.
  • There has been some confusion about those devices because the new Oklahoma laws say life begins at fertilization, and IUDs — as well as the Plan B pill — can block fertilized eggs from getting where they need to go to grow. Many anti-abortion advocates also oppose IUDs and Plan B pills. But again, Oklahoma’s laws say that those medications are still legal.

I’ve seen bills in other states targeting IUDs. Will I have to get my IUD taken out?

  • So far, some states have muddied the waters on whether IUDs are legal. And there are lawmakers in those states advocating for the bans to apply to the devices. Like Oklahoma, laws in those states say life begins at fertilization, but unlike Oklahoma, the laws don’t mention IUDs or Plan B by name.
  • Abortion restriction laws work by preventing access to abortion. If anti-abortion lawmakers begin working toward banning IUDs, it is likely those laws would work similarly, by blocking access and regulating doctors, not by banning possession.

Will my information about my contraceptive use at my OBGYN be protected?

  • Contraception is not illegal in Oklahoma. If the state passes laws banning a form of contraception, could that change? As of now, it is unclear.
  • Privacy laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, also known as HIPAA, are designed to keep your medical information private. 
  • But we’ve learned recently that medical providers or workers in health care settings can report any activity that is illegal under new abortion restrictions. A woman in Texas had self-induced an abortion and sought medical care after. Someone reported her to the authorities, and she was arrested.

Are contraceptives being targeted by Oklahoma lawmakers? If so, what do those bills look like?

  • In the last session, state lawmakers voted on and discussed a bill that would require parental consent before minors could take contraceptives. Senate Bill 1225 was passed in the Senate by 31 votes, but stalled in the house. Supporters of the bill said parents have a right to know whether their children are sexually active and to opt children out of the medication. Opponents raised concerns such as heightened teen pregnancy and potential threats to incest victims. 

I’ve heard of people choosing to get their tubes tied in recent days, but is getting one done in Oklahoma actually an option? 

  • Adults can choose to get sterilized in Oklahoma. According to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority’s website, SoonerPlan, the state’s family planning program for those not enrolled in regular SoonerCare services, will pay for a variety of services, like tubal ligations and vasectomies, for men and women 21 and older. You have to apply to SoonerPlan. Those procedures are paid with the current SoonerCare policy and require a consent form.
  • That being said, there can be barriers, mostly because of stigma. Some doctors won’t perform the procedure on women who are unmarried, have never had children, or on other patients who could change their minds.

What’s the difference between the emergency contraception pill and the abortion pill? 

  • In short, emergency contraception prevents a pregnancy, while abortion pills end one.
  • Emergency contraceptive pills - also known as morning-after pills - contain medicine that reduces the risk of pregnancy if started within five days of unprotected intercourse. They are available over the counter at drugstores without age restrictions. Other emergency contraceptives in increased doses require a prescription at any age. IUDs can also serve as emergency contraception.
  • The abortion pill - also known as medication abortion - will induce an abortion and can be taken under supervision up to 70 days after the first day of the last menstrual period. The abortion pill also is used in conjunction with misoprostol, which is taken later to complete the abortion. 

Can I still visit my nearest Planned Parenthood to get a form of contraception?

  • Yes.
  • Planned Parenthood Great Plains is no longer providing surgical or medical abortions in Oklahoma due to recent abortion bans, but they still are offering other services. According to the websites of all three Planned Parenthood locations in Oklahoma, they still offer birth control services. You can find a list of those centers and read an update here

Is emergency contraception available at IHS facilities?

  • Until 2015, access to Plan B wasn't widely available at Indian Health Service facilities, according to the ACLU and the Native American Women's Health and Education Resource Center. That’s despite a court order in 2013 that the FDA make the drug available with no restrictions. IHS did update their policy, but some tribally-run facilities either don't carry Plan B or make it available through a prescription or a doctor's visit.
  • The Native American Women's Health and Education Resource Center surveyed Indian Health Service and tribal facilities from 2016-2017 in several states including Oklahoma and asked about their policies for dispensing Plan B. They found that as of May 2017, most (90%) of IHS facilities didn't adhere to the change in policy to make Plan B readily available. The facilities with the most barriers or didn't carry it at all were in Oklahoma.

What are Indian Health Service's policies on birth control and Plan B or other emergency contraceptives?

  • It is IHS policy that the Plan B One-Step® emergency contraception pill is easily available through the IHS facilities' pharmacy, Emergency Department (ED), and in health clinics that are equipped with secure medication storage areas. This IHS policy applies to federally-operated direct care facilities. 
  • Access to birth control is available through Indian Health Service facilities.
  • You can find IHS policies here.

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The KOSU news team curates news of interest to Oklahomans from various sources around the world. Our hope is inform, educate, and entertain.
Catherine Sweeney reports for StateImpact Oklahoma, focusing on health.
Allison Herrera is a radio and print journalist who's worked for PRX's The World, Colorado Public Radio as the climate and environment editor and as a freelance reporter for High Country News’ Indigenous Affairs desk.
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