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The Morning After

The Morning After: A History of Emergency Contraception in the United States

Heather Munro Prescott
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 180
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  • Book Info
    The Morning After
    Book Description:

    Since 2006, when the "morning-after pill" Plan B was first sold over the counter, sales of emergency contraceptives have soared, becoming an $80-million industry in the United States and throughout the Western world. But emergency contraception is nothing new. It has a long and often contentious history as the subject of clashes not only between medical researchers and religious groups, but also between different factions of feminist health advocates.

    The Morning Aftertells the story of emergency contraception in America from the 1960s to the present day and, more importantly, it tells the story of the women who have used it. Side-stepping simplistic readings of these women as either radical feminist trailblazers or guinea pigs for the pharmaceutical industry, medical historian Heather Munro Prescott offers a portrait of how ordinary women participated in the development and popularization of emergency contraception, bringing a groundbreaking technology into the mainstream with the potential to alter radically reproductive health practices.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-5217-0
    Subjects: Health Sciences, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    I first heard about emergency contraception during the 1990s, when a cluster of stories about a “back-up” method of birth control appeared in medical journals, popular magazines, and televised news reports, including a program on the popular music channel MTV. Although I was an assistant professor working on the history of adolescent health issues, and involved in reproductive rights activism on campus and in the community, I had not heard of emergency contraception before. Like others, I assumed that this was a relatively new contraceptive technology. As I was researching my last book on the history of college health, I...

  6. Chapter 1 A Second Revolution in Birth Control
    (pp. 7-21)

    In a 1966 article in theNew York Timesmagazine, abortion activist and investigative reporter Lawrence Lader celebrated the revolutionary accomplishments of the three “fathers” of the contraceptive pill: Dr. Gregory Pincus, research director of the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology (WFEB) in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts; WFEB senior research scientist Min Chueh Chang; and obstetrician-gynecologist John Rock, head of the Rock Reproductive Clinic in Brookline, Massachusetts. The article also announced studies by Pincus and Chang on a new development that could “herald a second revolution in birth control.” This new “morning-after pill” could prevent conception after ovulation by accelerating the egg’s...

  7. Chapter 2 Courageous Volunteers
    (pp. 22-36)

    In 1966, John McLean Morris and Gertrude van Wagenen reported the results of their first human tests of postcoital contraception at the Annual Meeting of the American Gynecological Society. Morris and Van Wagenen noted that despite the success of their studies in the macaque monkey, they were initially anxious about extending their research to human beings because the risk of side effects in humans was unknown. Their first human subjects were rape victims treated at Yale–New Haven Hospital. Morris and van Wagenen acknowledged that the incidence of pregnancy following rape was uncertain. They found that none of their small...

  8. Chapter 3 Feminist Health Activism and the Feds
    (pp. 37-54)

    In October 1971, a University of Michigan Health Service senior physician, Lucile Kirtland Kuchera, published a study of one thousand patients given diethylstilbestrol (DES) as a postcoital contraceptive at the University Health Service in theJournal of the American Medical Association.Kuchera had read about the work of Morris and van Wagenen at Yale–New Haven Hospital and began administering their postcoital contraceptive method to patients who came to her for help following unprotected intercourse. Kuchera reported that the pill was 100 percent effective and that no serious side effects were experienced by any of the one thousand women who...

  9. Chapter 4 Balancing Safety and Choice
    (pp. 55-72)

    In a 1971 article inFamily Planning Perspectives,Dr. Philip Corfman, director of the Center for Population Research at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHHD), announced the center’s five-year plan to fund research to develop new contraceptive methods. The center had been established in August 1968 as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration’s efforts to alleviate poverty by providing federal support for contraceptive research and development. Funding for the center continued during the presidency of Richard Nixon, who charged the center to work with other agencies, nonprofit organizations, and the contraceptive industry to develop new...

  10. Chapter 5 Building Consensus
    (pp. 73-90)

    In June of 1979, a group of healthcare professionals, scientists, lay midwives, consumer advocates, social scientists, women’s studies professors, historians, and policy analysts held a workshop entitled “Ethical Issues in Human Reproduction Technology: Analysis by Women” at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. This workshop was the first conference in the United States to focus on women’s views of the ethical issues of reproductive technology. Topics included hormonal contraception, sterilization abuse, diethylstilbestrol and cancer, prenatal diagnosis, neonatology, and assistive reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer. The conference participants challenged two key assumptions of contraceptive research and development:...

  11. Chapter 6 Mainstreaming Emergency Contraception
    (pp. 91-106)

    On April 10, 1997, the popular medical drama television showERincluded a brief scenario in which emergency room nurse Carol Hathaway (Julianna Margulies) treats a teenaged college student in the emergency room’s free clinic. The young woman had been drugged with the sedative Rohypnol (aka “ruffies”) and date raped at a party the night before. Hathaway gives the frightened young woman an emergency contraception kit and instructs her how to use it.¹ Although emergency contraception had been covered extensively by the press and network news programs during the 1990s, this was the first time it was featured prominently in...

  12. Chapter 7 From Paternalism to Patient Empowerment
    (pp. 107-124)

    In a special issue on emergency contraception in 1999, theJournal of the American Medical Women’s Associationargued that the time had come to make emergency contraception available over the counter (OTC). The journal editors argued that the harm of keeping this method out of women’s hands outweighed the potential risks of making emergency contraceptive pills more widely available by removing the prescription status. The article concluded that “the special paternalistic scrutiny accorded to contraceptive methods used by women be relaxed” and that emergency contraception join the ranks of other OTC drug products.¹ Feminist health activists had been battling the...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 125-128)

    In an editorial for the journalContraceptionin 2009, Francine Coeytaux, Elisa Wells, and Elizabeth Westley summarized the success of a twenty-year battle by women’s health advocates to bring emergency contraception “from secret to shelf.” Accomplishments included the creation of dedicated products, an increase in women’s awareness and use of this contraceptive method, and increased access through over-the-counter sales for women seventeen and older. Yet, despite this progress, the authors observed that advocates of emergency contraception had “encountered a curve ball that has us circling back where we started.” Analyses of the impact of growing availability of emergency contraception indicated...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 129-150)
  15. Index
    (pp. 151-164)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 165-166)