Women in the US have been safely and legally using mifepristone and misoprostol (also called “the abortion pill”) for medication abortion for well over a decade: September 28 marks the 17th anniversary of its FDA approval.
Since it was approved, the use of medication abortion has grown steadily. One in three women chooses this method in order to end an early pregnancy. Medication abortion generally can be used up to 10 weeks after the first day of a woman's last period.
With medication abortion, you don’t need to have a procedure in a doctor’s office. You can have your medication abortion at home or in another comfortable place. Because it is similar to a miscarriage, many women feel like medication abortion is more “natural” and less invasive.
“The staff does a side-by-side comparison of medication vs. surgical abortion at the beginning of the visit so the patient understands her options,” said Karin, Planned Parenthood clinician support specialist. “In order to have a medication abortion, a woman needs to have support at home. Also, she may not be a good candidate if she has certain medical conditions (for example, uncontrolled diabetes or severe anemia) or if she is taking certain prescription medications.”
Medication abortion is completed in three steps. First, a health care provider gives the patient a dose of mifepristone at the clinic. Pregnancy needs a hormone called progesterone to grow normally, and mifepristone blocks the body’s own progesterone.
Within two days, the patient takes a second medication — misoprostol — also in the form of a pill, usually at home. Lastly, a health care provider checks that the abortion is complete with an ultrasound or blood test.
“A lot of times, patients ask if they’ll be able to get pregnant again in the future. The answer is absolutely yes,” said Karin. “I also get asked if it’s going to hurt. I tell them it’s not going to be comfortable, but we’re going to help you manage your pain. We give them pain medication, verbal and written guidance on how to take the medication, as well as access to a 24-hour nurse line.”
Planned Parenthood makes sure women receive the high-quality health care they need in a safe, respectful environment — including safe, legal abortion.