Five Things to Know About the Morning-After Pill on Its 20th Anniversary

Medication portion of PREVEN Emergency Contraceptive Kit. Photo: Smithsonian Institution

In 1993, the New York Times Magazine posited that the morning-after pill might be “the best-kept contraceptive secret in America.” Even many doctors had no idea there was a fallback contraceptive that could be used shortly after unprotected sex or cases of rape.

In many ways, the morning-after pill had been right in front of U.S. doctors for decades. In terms of chemical composition, it was not much different from standard birth control, using the same main ingredients — synthetic hormones — in higher doses. Moreover, many of their colleagues in Europe and Asia had already been prescribing morning-after pills for years.


In 1998, years of research and advocacy led to the first FDA-approved morning-after pill.


Here, however, the secret was still largely intact. A 1994 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that two-thirds of American women had never heard of the morning-after pill or other forms of emergency contraception (EC). Less than 1 percent had ever used them.

There was an information shortfall in large part because there was no contraceptive that was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) specifically for emergency use. Some providers worked around that absence by using the chemically similar estrogen and progestin medications that were approved for regular birth control. By upping the dosage, they created a suitable morning-after pill on their own. But drug makers couldn’t label or market those birth-control pills for emergency, post-coital use, since they weren’t FDA-approved for that purpose. It also spelled problems for federally funded clinics. Federal dollars couldn’t pay for an off-label medication hack, a makeshift morning-after pill that wasn’t officially approved. Continue reading

Pro-Choice Friday News Rundown

  • New Jersey’s new governor, Phil Murphy, undid the damage of his awful predecessor by restoring funding to Planned Parenthood. Yay!  (The Hill)

  • Democrats in the U.S. Senate are pressuring Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to reverse a strategy coordinated with a prominent hate group to undermine family-planning access for people with low incomes. (Rewire)
  • The Department of Justice is appealing a California judge’s decision to temporarily block new Trump administration rules allowing more employers to opt out of providing no-cost birth control in their insurance plans. (ABC News)
  • South Carolina is trying to ban ALL abortions by granting legal rights to fertilized eggs from the moment of conception. Literally the worst idea ever. Eggs are not sentient beings. Period. (Salon)
  • Hmm … What to think of those who call themselves “pro-life” but sit quietly and idly by while gun violence steals the lives of innocent bystanders? (WaPo)
  • The abhorrent goons in the Trump administration are quietly helping states defund Planned Parenthood. (Vox)
  • This is unbelievable! Some states — including Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas — directly divert public funds allocated to feed hungry children to fake women’s health centers. (Rewire)
  • Get a load of this bull: The Trump administration created a new HHS office just to discriminate against people — and they housed it under the Office of Civil Rights. (The Hill)
  • A man crashed a stolen bakery truck into a Planned Parenthood clinic on Valentine’s Day in East Orange, New Jersey, injuring three people, including two staff members and a pregnant woman. Thankfully none of the injuries were life-threatening. (Southern Poverty Law Center)
  • Hey, North Carolina, maybe strapping female inmates to beds during childbirth isn’t the most compassionate protocol? (News & Observer)