We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

The Morning After

A History of Emergency Contraception in the United States

Heather Munro Prescott

Publication Year: 2011

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 After tells 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.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (33.8 KB)


pdf iconDownload PDF (32.3 KB)
pp. vii-viii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (39.7 KB)
pp. ix-x

The idea for this book originated from a paper I presented at the annual meeting of the Society for the History of Technology held in Amsterdam in 2004. I thank Sharra Vostral for thinking of me when she was looking for a last-minute replacement for a panelist who had to drop out unexpectedly. ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (33.4 KB)
pp. xi-xii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (34.1 KB)
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, ...

read more

Chapter 1. A Second Revolution in Birth Control

pdf iconDownload PDF (70.8 KB)
pp. 7-21

In a 1966 article in the New York Times magazine, 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; ...

read more

Chapter 2. Courageous Volunteers

pdf iconDownload PDF (71.4 KB)
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 ...

read more

Chapter 3. Feminist Health Activism and the Feds

pdf iconDownload PDF (189.3 KB)
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 the Journal of the American Medical Association. ...

read more

Chapter 4. Balancing Safety and Choice

pdf iconDownload PDF (77.2 KB)
pp. 55-72

In a 1971 article in Family 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. ...

read more

Chapter 5. Building Consensus

pdf iconDownload PDF (182.9 KB)
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. ...

read more

Chapter 6. Mainstreaming Emergency Contraception

pdf iconDownload PDF (114.7 KB)
pp. 91-107

On April 10, 1997, the popular medical drama television show ER included 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. ...

read more

Chapter 7. From Paternalism to Patient Empowerment

pdf iconDownload PDF (78.7 KB)
pp. 107-124

In a special issue on emergency contraception in 1999, the Journal of the American Medical Women’s Association argued 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 ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (39.4 KB)
pp. 125-128

In an editorial for the journal Contraception in 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, ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (99.3 KB)
pp. 129-150


pdf iconDownload PDF (133.9 KB)
pp. 151-163

E-ISBN-13: 9780813552170
E-ISBN-10: 0813552176

Page Count: 180
Illustrations: 4 illustrations
Publication Year: 2011