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What is a Medication Abortion?


At RHAP we believe everyone has the right to make the decisions that are best for their lives and bodies. This includes decisions about whether to have an abortion and what that abortion experience is like. One area that RHAP is paying close attention to is medication abortion, sometimes referred to as the “abortion pill.”

Medication is one of the options to end a pregnancy within the first 10 weeks. The most effective and most common medication abortion regime used in the United States consists of taking 5 pills: 1 mifepristone pill and 4 misoprostol pills. The mifepristone blocks the hormone progesterone, which stops the body from continuing to grow the pregnancy. The misoprostol, which is taken 6-72 hours after the mifepristone, causes the uterus to cramp and bleed, which helps the body to pass the pregnancy tissue. Patients looking to use this option may be able to obtain the medication from their clinician. Clinicians can dispense the mifepristone in their office and then write a prescription for misoprostol. The mifepristone pill is swallowed and the misoprostol pills can either be inserted into the vagina or placed in the mouth between your cheeks and gums where it will be absorbed by the body for 30 minutes. The misoprostol will cause cramping and heavy bleeding for 3-5 hours and may have side effects of nausea, diarrhea, and chills. Using medication to end a pregnancy is very safe, effective, can be used in the privacy of one’s home, and may feel more natural or discrete because the process is similar to what happens to the body with a miscarriage. In very rare cases, individuals using medication for an abortion may experience more serious symptoms that require reaching out to a clinician, including bleeding through more than two maxi pads per hour for two hours, not bleeding within 24 hours of taking the misoprostol pills, or feeling very ill after the heavy cramping and bleeding is over.

In places where mifepristone is not available, 4 misoprostol pills taken every 3-12 hours up to three times can also be used to end a pregnancy safely and effectively.

Medication abortion can be a good option for many people looking to end their pregnancies, particularly during this tumultuous time when abortion access is on the decline. For additional resources on medication abortion, check out RHAP’s Resources page.

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