The Politics of Fat and Emergency Contraceptives

December 4, 2013

I am a fat Black woman from the South. I exist at the intersection of multiple identities that medical research labels “vulnerable populations.” The label “vulnerable population” describes people who are frequently excluded from involvement in medical research, including clinical trials, because they are perceived as difficult to reach by the research community. Despite acknowledging that their research is not inclusive of all groups, the medical industry has a long exploitive history of attributing health disparities to patient behavior and economic inequality rather than admitting that their own prejudices also lead to differential outcomes for “vulnerable populations.” So when it was reported recently that French drug manufacturer HRA Pharma had found that the emergency contraceptive Norlevo, which has a similar chemical makeup to Plan B One-Step, is ineffective for women over 176 pounds, I was not surprised. Medical research, researchers, and commentary do not exist in a vacuum of objectivity; they are shaped by social assumptions and stereotypes that often end up having harmful consequences for “vulnerable populations.”


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