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Someone asked us: What is mifepristone? I keep seeing stuff about it in the news. Is mifepristone Plan B? Can you get it over the counter?

What is mifepristone?

Mifepristone is one of 2 medicines that you take to have a medication abortion. The other medicine is misoprostol. 

You take mifepristone first — it blocks a hormone in your body which ends the pregnancy. Then you take misoprostol — it causes cramping and bleeding that makes the pregnancy tissue come out of your uterus through your vagina

These medicines are sometimes called “abortion pills,” and they’re a very safe way to have an early abortion.

You can also safely have a medication abortion using only misoprostol.

Is mifepristone a morning-after pill?

Nope — these are actually very different medicines. Abortion pills like mifepristone end a pregnancy that already exists. Morning-after pills like Plan B help stop you from getting pregnant in the first place.

Morning-after pills — also called emergency contraception — are a type of birth control. They help delay ovulation, so sperm and egg can’t meet. You can take the morning-after pill up to 5 days after unprotected sex, before pregnancy has a chance to happen. But morning-after pills won’t cause an abortion if you’re already pregnant.

Mifepristone helps cause an abortion — you use it when you’re pregnant. You can use abortion pills up to 11 weeks after the first day of your last period.

Can you get mifepristone over the counter?

No. You can only get mifepristone from a doctor or nurse  — like the ones at Planned Parenthood — or other abortion providers. And you can only get mifepristone in states where abortion is legal.

Can you get morning-after pills over the counter?

Yup! You can get most morning-after pills like Plan B over the counter without a prescription at drug stores, grocery stores, superstores, and online. Morning-after pills are legal nationwide. Anyone can buy them, no matter your age or gender. 

There is one type of morning-after pill that you need a prescription for, called ella. It prevents pregnancy the same way Plan B-type pills do, but it’s more effective — especially if you weigh more than 165 pounds. You can get a prescription for ella from your nurse or doctor, your nearest Planned Parenthood health center, or online with quick shipping

Tags: Abortion, abortion pill, emergency contraception, the morning-after pill, medication, mifepristone