The Social Life of Emergency Contraception in the United States: Disciplining Pharmaceutical Use, Disciplining Sexuality, and Constructing Zygotic Bodies

,

Abstract

This article is an examination of the FDA hearing on a proposal to permit nonprescription access to the emergency contraceptive pill Plan B. Participants debated the drug’s impact on female and young adult sexuality, illustrating how the rhetoric over disciplining pharmaceutical use in the American public is a displaced language for talking about disciplining women’s and girls’ sexuality. Debate over Plan B also focused on its mechanism of action and whether or not it was abortifacient, revealing a medical technology characterized not only by moral but also by marked scientific ambiguity. The scientific framing of the politics of emergency contraception is testament to the powerful authority of biomedicine to narrate and thus produce ideologies of bodies (individual, embryonic, social, and political), sexuality, and selves. The discourse on access to Plan B in the United States demonstrates how women’s bodies are sites of control where the politics of sexuality, discourses on public health, and medical constructions of biological processes intersect.