The Abortion Pill:What could be simpler? Why shouldn't you simply take the abortion pill (RU-486), go home and terminate your pregnancy in the privacy of your own home? We offer our opinion on the abortion pill.
The complication rate, including the need for blood transfusions, hospitalization and surgery for the abortion pill is far too high to make the pill a reasonable alternative. That's why the very best clinics don't even offer it.
So, why not the abortion pill?
The Abortion Pill (RU-486) is an artificial steroid that blocks progesterone. Progesterone is a hormone needed to support pregnancy. RU-486 causes a medical abortion, making it different from emergency contraception or "morning after" pills. RU-486 (also known as Mifeprex) can terminate early (less than 49-day-old) pregnancies. The drug has been available in Europe since the 1980s and was approved for use in America in 2000.
In 2004, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced plans to revise
warnings associated with the drug due to the numerous infections, bleeding
and deaths that have been associated with the drug.
When Can It Be Used
Typically, mifepristone and misoprostol can be used for early abortion
up to 63 days after the start of the last menstrual period. Approximately
95-98% of women will have a complete abortion when using mifepristone/misoprostol.
The remaining women will need a suction procedure, either because of ongoing
or excessive bleeding, an incomplete abortion (tissue remains in the uterus
but there is no growing embryo), or an ongoing pregnancy (a viable growing
Let's get to the point - why not use the pill
First, it simply does NOT live up to it's "do it at home" claim.
There are basically 3 steps to the medical abortion (RU-486) process.
These normally require 3 trips to the medical office. That's right,
3 times as many trips to the doctor's office as a traditional abortion
On the first visit:
• A medical history is taken and a clinical exam and lab tests are performed.
• Counseling is completed and informed consent is obtained.
• Patient agrees that a vacuum abortion will be done if the medication fails.
• If eligible for medical abortion, the woman swallows the mifepristone pill(s).
Second visit to the medical office:
• This step takes place within about 2 days of step one.
• Unless abortion has occurred and has been confirmed, the woman uses misoprostol.
• Misoprostol tablets may be taken orally or inserted into the vagina.
Third visit to the medical office:
• This step takes place within about 2 weeks of step two.
• The clinician evaluates the woman to determine if the abortion was successful.
• It is essential for women to return to the office/clinic to confirm that the abortion is complete.
(or very serious complications may result)
• If there is an ongoing pregnancy, a suction abortion should be provided.
• If there is an incomplete abortion, the clinician will discuss possible treatment options.
(These may include:
re-evaluating for complete abortion in a number of days
or a suction procedure)
Additional visits may be required if complications result or the procedure
is incomplete. And, additional visits are very likely as compared
to the safer and friendlier conventional abortion procedure.
Complications With RU-486
Side effects, such as pain, cramping and vaginal bleeding, are expected with all medical (RU-486) abortion. Other side effects may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, chills, or fever. The more serious complications may include infection, excessive vaginal bleeding requiring transfusion (occurs in approximately 1 in 500 cases), incomplete abortion or ongoing pregnancy which requires a suction abortion. In a small number of cases, death may occur. Serious complications with the abortion pill occur at a considerably higher rate than do such complications with surgical abortion.
Get the point? It's not the simple, "take the pill and go
home" procedure we are led to believe. It works, except for
about 1 out of 20 patients that have to go on to a conventional abortion
anyway but, the it is a long struggle at home, on your own, usually accompanied
by cramping, pain, bleeding and uncertainty about whether it is actually
working or not.
Why We recommend against the Abortion Pill
O. K., our opinion should already be obvious. Still, we think every woman should have a choice among all the options available around pregnancy. It's her body, it should be her choice, but while she should have the choice, she should also have all of the important information necessary to make the right choice for her. The hype and advertising around the abortion pill has clouded the issues placing most people on one side or the other. Mostly we have heard anti-abortionists screaming that the abortion pill is awful and women's' rights groups arguing correctly that women should have the choice. We think the pill should remain an alternative, but every woman should know of its dangers and understand just how impractical it is compared to the safety and comfort of a surgical abortion.
We believe you should be very skeptical of any clinic that offers the abortion pill and tells you it's a good alternative. Many clinics get the patient in the door and recommend against the pill even though they advertise the abortion pill as something they offer. Why would they do that? Obviously, because they are using the abortion pill to attract more patients, but they don't want to prescribe it because they know it's a problem and they don't want to deal with the high complication rate and unhappy patients.
As for the clinics that happily offer the abortion pill, you should ask them if they are willing to pay for all the complications including the blood transfusions, hospitalization and any follow up surgery. If they are not, you know they must not have faith in the abortion pill either.