The politics of Norplant: feminism, civil rights, and social policy in the 1990s

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Justina Carmela Licata (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Lisa Levenstein

Abstract: In December 1990, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Norplant, the first subdermal implantable contraceptive device ever manufactured. Norplant consisted of six thin, silicone rubber rods that were surgically inserted under the skin of a woman’s arm, slowly releasing hormones to prevent pregnancies for up to five years. Many people in the United States celebrated its approval, including some feminists and doctors. They believed new contraceptive research would afford women greater reproductive control and additional freedoms. But feminists in Bangladesh, Brazil, and Egypt had been claiming that the drug’s testing trials were unethical, and that Norplant was unsafe. They warned U.S. activists about these dangers and within months, their predictions came to fruition. Judges, lawmakers, and community leaders pressured poor and minority women to use Norplant and many claimed they experienced terrible side effects from the drug. After U.S. women’s health activists mobilized on patients’ behalf, class action lawyers took notice and filed 200 lawsuits against Norplant’s manufacturer on behalf of fifty thousand women. Just twelve years after its FDA approval, Norplant was removed from the American market. This dissertation investigates the many historical constructions that defined Norplant from its development in the 1960s to its downfall.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2020
Birth control, Class-action litigation, Contraception, Eugenics, Feminism, Reproductive justice
Reproductive rights

Email this document to