• Recent moves in parts of UK to provide opportunities for ‘over the counter’ purchasing at pharmacies, has meant that access to emergency oral hormonal contraception for adolescents is undergoing something of a revolution.
• The provision of emergency contraception (EC) to adolescents in Accident and Emergency (A and E) departments, however, is nothing new and is now an established component of the current government objective to reduce teenage pregnancy rates in this country.
• The tensions apparent in A and E departments related to the provision of EC, particularly to adolescents, have recently been recognized, but little attention has been paid to analysing the reasons why such tensions might exist.
• This article is based on a literature review carried out as part of a study of nurses' encounters with adolescents accessing EC in A and E departments in the North-west of England.
• It is a reappraisal of the salient issues in this arena from a feminist perspective, aiming to provide an alternative with which to view the encounter between adolescents and service providers in A and E.