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Frequently Asked Questions About the Abortion Pill (Medication Abortion)

Frequently Asked Questions About the Abortion Pill (Medication Abortion)

What is the abortion pill?

The abortion pill refers to the method of inducing an abortion by taking two different drugs.

The first drug is RU-486, also called mifepristone, blocks the hormone receptors for Progesterone, a hormone that is crucial to the early progress of a pregnancy.[1]  Without adequate levels of progesterone, the pregnancy cannot continue.  This drug is taken in the doctor’s office.

By itself, mifepristone induces abortion only between 64-85% of the time.[2]  Because of this, the next part of the procedure is taking misoprostol, a prostaglandin which is used to induce powerful uterine contractions, and it is usually taken 24-48 hours after the first drug.  These contractions usually complete the abortion and cause the contents of the uterus to be expelled.[3]  This drug is usually taken at home and causes an experience similar to a miscarriage.  Common side effects are heavy bleeding, painful uterine contractions, nausea, vomiting and dizziness.

Women are encouraged to have someone to help them nearby because it is possible to lose large quantities of blood and require emergency care and blood transfusions.

Who should not take the abortion pill?

The FDA advises that the Abortion Pill (RU-486) should NOT be taken if any one of the following circumstances apply[4]:

  • It has been more than 70 days … since your last menstrual period began.
  • You have an IUD.
  • Your provider has told you that you have a pregnancy outside the uterus (ectopic pregnancy). [Note: About 2% of pregnancies are outside the uterus.]
  • You have problems with your adrenal glands (chronic adrenal failure).
  • You take a medicine to thin your blood.
  • You have a bleeding problem.
  • You take certain steroid medications.
  • You cannot return for the next 2 visits after taking the abortion pill[ 2 days and 14 days after taking RU-486].
  • You cannot easily get emergency medical help [including ‘blood transfusions, and emergency resuscitation’] in the 2 weeks after you take [the abortion pill – RU-486].
  • You are allergic to mifepristone [RU-486], misoprostol, or medicines that contain misoprostol such as Cytotec or Arthrotec.


Is the abortion pill the same as emergency contraception or the morning after pill?

No.  Those pills are very high doses of birth control pills taken within 72 hours of intercourse which are used to prevent a pregnancy from occurring.  The abortion pill is used to end a pregnancy that has already begun.

Why should a woman get an ultrasound if she is considering taking the abortion pill?

Although the abortion pill may be prescribed up until 10 weeks (70 days) since the start of a woman’s last menstrual period (LMP), this method of abortion is much less effective after the 7th week of pregnancy.

Many women do not know when they became pregnant; ultrasound is the most effective diagnostic tool for dating and locating pregnancy.  For some women the medical information provided through an ultrasound can change the healthcare decisions they and their doctors make.

For example, the abortion pill is not effective in ending an ectopic pregnancies, which occur up to 2% of the time, and can mask serious symptoms such as pain and uterine bleeding that can occur as a result of a ruptured fallopian tube; [5] women and their healthcare providers need to know if a woman is experiencing an ectopic pregnancy in order to avoid a potentially fatal condition.

What happens if the pills don’t work?

The abortion pill doesn’t work for up to 9% of the women who take it.[6]  The likelihood of it not working increases the later in pregnancy the procedure is performed.  Many abortion doctors pressure women to have a surgical abortion, should the woman still remain pregnant after taking the abortion pills.  Some abortionists even require women to sign a statement that they will have a surgical abortion should the pills fail.  These doctors claim that the baby will have birth defects because of the failed medication abortion.

It is important to remember that no one can force women to have an abortion, and that women have the right to change their mind.  In addition, the leading authority on birth in the US, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), has gone on the record as saying that there is currently no evidence that mifepristone, RU-486 causes birth defects.[7]

Is there any way to reverse the procedure?

Yes.  For women who have only taken the first pill (mifepristone) and no longer want to go through with the procedure, there is another option.  There is a 55% chance of success in reversing the abortion procedure.[8]  The Front Royal Pregnancy Center can connect women with a doctor who can help them to stop the abortion process and continue their pregnancy.

If you think you may be pregnant, please contact the Front Royal Pregnancy Center today to schedule a free pregnancy test and free ultrasound.  If you have any further questions about the abortion pill procedure, we are happy to meet with you to answer them.  All of our services are completely free and confidential.

[1] .  André Ulmann, Georges Teutsch, and Daniel Philbert, “RU486,” Scientific American, Vol. 262, No. 6 (June 1990), pp. 18-24.

[2] Sophie Christin-Maitre, Philippe Bouchard, and Irving Spitz, “Medical Termination of Pregnancy,” New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 342, No. 13 (March 30, 2000), p. 951. While Christin-Maitre, et al specifically referred to the efficacy of mifepristone among women 49 days pregnant or less when recounting these percentages, Ulmann, in Scientific American, p. 23, reported a range of 65% to 80% efficacy. Other studies using similar doses obtained “completion” rates of 65.2% (RU486 Collaboration Group, “Termination of early pregnancy by RU486 alone or in combination with prostaglandin,” Chinese Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Vol. 25 (1990), pp. 31-4, 62) and 63.5% (Zheng Shu-rong, “RU 486 (mifepristone): clinical trials in China,” Acta Obst. Gyn. Scand, Vol 149 (1989), supplement, pp. 19-23.

[3] Irving M. Spitz, C. Wayne Bardin, Lauri Benton, and Ann Robbings, “Early Pregnancy Termination with Mifepristone and Misoprostol in the United States,” New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 338, No. 18 (April 30, 1998), pp. 1241-1243.



[6] Spitz, Irving, et al., et al. Early Pregnancy Termination with Mifepristone and Misoprostol in the United States, 338:1241-1247. The New England Journal of Medicine, . [Online] April 30, 1998. [Cited: September 6, 2011.]

[7] The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) in its Practice Bulletin Number 143, March 2014 states that: “No evidence exists to date of a teratogenic effect of mifepristone.”


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