Six Things You Should Know About Abortion Pills

| Reproaction

By: Caitlin Blunnie

Abortion is still legal in all 50 states, though legality has never ensured accessibility. For far too long, too many have faced unnecessary and politically motivated barriers when seeking abortion care. 2021 has been the worst year on record for abortion rights, but there was some good news:

In May 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it would conduct a full review of the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) for mifepristone, one of two drugs used in a medication abortion. [1] The REMS dictates how certain drugs should be dispensed, and while only a few drugs have REMS imposed on their distribution for safety concerns, mifepristone’s inclusion on that list is blatantly political. Mifepristone has been used by more than four million people in the United States since 2000, and the burden of REMS needlessly limits access. Restrictions on abortion pills are not only unnecessary, as research shows that telehealth abortion is safe and effective, but fall hardest on people of color, those who live in rural areas, LGBTQ+ and gender non-conforming people, and people struggling to make ends meet.

During the pandemic, the FDA temporarily lifted the in-person dispensing requirement on mifepristone allowing people to pick-up abortion pills from their local pharmacy or at their mailbox. This change could become permanent for people living in states without laws that ban access to abortion pills through telemedicine. [2]

Abortion pills are unstoppable, so here’s what you should know:

1. Abortion pills are safe and effective.

That goes for in-clinic abortion in all forms, too – aspiration, dilation, and evacuation (D&E) and induction – is safe. Having an abortion does not impact future fertility, and does not increase the likeness of breast cancer or mental health disorders.

Abortion with a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol is 96.7 percent effective while abortion with just misoprostol is about 85 percent effective in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. All forms of abortion with pills have extremely low rates of complications.

Having an abortion is even safer than wisdom tooth removal and tonsillectomy (and of course, childbirth.) [3]

2. Abortion pills can be taken in the privacy and comfort of your home

There is no scientific or medical justification for requiring someone to travel to a hospital or clinic just to pick up medication they can take at home.

People seeking abortion care should be able to decide the type of care that works best for them. While some people may prefer receiving care at a clinic, others may prefer to self-manage their abortion from the comfort of their home.

New data from the TelAbortion study in the US affirmed that providing medication abortion through telemedicine and mailed medication is safe and effective. Among nearly 1,400 abortions provided this way, 95 percent were completed without a procedure and 99 percent of patients experienced no serious adverse events. [4]

3. Emergency contraception is not the abortion pill

Did you know that pregnancy does not occur immediately after sex? Sperm can live in the body for up to six days! Emergency contraception works by preventing a pregnancy from occurring, but does not end a pregnancy. Once someone is pregnant, emergency contraception is no longer effective and it will not cause an abortion. It’s important to note that confusing emergency contraception with abortion can lead to delayed access to care, so don’t waste your time with emergency contraception if you are pregnant and need abortion pills.

4. There is no weight limit for abortion pills

The regime for abortion with pills is effective regardless of a person’s weight or size. It is important to note however, that many forms of emergency contraceptives do have weight limitations.

Progestin-only pills containing levonorgestrel such as Plan B or My Way will be less effective for bodies over 155 lbs. Pills containing ulipristal acetate, such as ella, will be less effective for bodies over 195 lbs. Copper IUDs have no weight restriction and are the most effective form of emergency contraception if inserted up to five days after unprotected intercourse. [5]

5. Abortion pills should not be taken if someone has an intrauterine device (IUD)

Birth control is extremely effective in preventing pregnancy, but even with it, people can still become pregnant. [6] If someone has an IUD and is pregnant, it’s important that the device is removed before taking abortion pills.

It’s safer to get an IUD removed by a physician, however if there are barriers to getting care, people have safely removed their own IUDs. [7]

6. Information about abortion pills belongs to all of us

While in some states it is not legal for someone to self-manage their abortion with abortion pills, it is not a crime to share information about abortion pills or self-managed abortion.

The risks associated with self-managed abortion are legal, not medical. To date, there have been at least 20 arrests of women who have ended their own pregnancy outside a medical setting in the United States.

To learn about the magic of abortion pills, check out our Self-Managed Abortion campaign.

Sources:

[1] https://msmagazine.com/2021/05/11/fda-review-abortion-pill-restrictions-mifepristone-biden/

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/13/health/covid-abortion-pills-mailed.html

[3]https://journals.lww.com/greenjournal/Fulltext/2015/01000/Incidence_of_Emergency_Department_Visits_and.29.aspx]

[4]https://emaaproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/MAC-Covid-6.3-FINAL-revised-final.docx.pdf

[5]https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/morning-after-pill-emergency-contraception/which-kind-emergency-contraception-should-i-use

[6] https://www.acog.org/-/media/project/acog/acogorg/womens-health/files/infographics/effectiveness-of-birth-control-methods.pdf?la=en&hash=14E62A164B84544B2D10A0025F43F479

[7] https://www.reproductiveaccess.org/resource/contraceptive-pearls-iud-self-removal/

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