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Assessing Plan B: The Effect of the Morning After Pill on Children and Women


  • We acknowledge the support of a number of members of the Government of Chile who provided extremely useful access to, and advice regarding, national databases. Principally, we thank Rodrigo Alarcón S., Andrés Álvarez A., Carlos Arce Mártinez, Ximena Carrasco and Nicolás Muñóz of the Ministries of Health, Social Development and Education. Much care was taken by all parties to respect all necessary privacy clauses and data analysis was undertaken in line with Law 19.628 of Protection of Private Life (Ley 19.628 de Protección de la Vida Privada). We are grateful to Sonia Bhalotra, Lidia Casas, René Castro, Paul Devereux, James Fenske, Jeanne Lafortune, Simon Quinn, Climent Quintana Domeque, Chris Roth, Margaret Stevens, two anonymous referees and the editor Kjell Salvanes, and various seminar audiences, without implicating them in any remaining shortcomings. We thank Daniela Gómez P. and Katharine Lauderdale for excellent research assistance.

  • Correction note: article corrected on 26 June 2017 after initial online publication on 20 April 2017. The authors were made aware of a coding error in the their original preparation of the microdata which resulted in incorrect estimates in the accepted version of this article. When reading in microdata to convert to municipal averages, the authors transposed two variable names meaning that year fixed effects (but not municipal by year trends) were incorrectly coded in municipal-level regressions. Correction of the code resulted in updated municipal-level regression estimates. Individual-level regression estimates remain unchanged. This version of the article has been corrected; the discussion in the article reflects the estimates in the corrected regression tables and event studies, resulting in changes in the introduction, results and concluding sections where effect sizes are discussed. This has resulted in a reduction in the magnitude of results reported in municipal-level analysis, while maintaining the direction of the effects. The online Technical Appendix and replication files, which are available in the online version of the article as supporting information, have also been corrected.

    For clarity, a copy of the of the original version of the article, published online on 20 April 2017, a copy of the original online Technical Appendix and the uncorrected replication code are also available as Supporting Information to allow for comparison with the corrected versions. See Supporting Information file


We test whether the availability of the emergency contraceptive (‘morning after’) pill in the absence of legalised abortion can have effects similar to those of other large-scale contraceptive reforms. To do so, we examine a quasi-experimental policy reform occurring in Chile in 2008. Using vital statistics covering all births and foetal deaths over the period 2006–12, we show that the availability of the emergency contraceptive pill reduces pregnancy and early gestation foetal death, which we argue proxies for illegal abortion. Our results suggest that in the context of Chile, a country with among the most restrictive abortion laws in the world, the emergency contraceptive pill had effects around a third as large as various abortion reforms observed in other contexts.