45 years ago, Roe v. Wade fought to have abortion legalised in America. Nevertheless, the fight is still on today as there are many states that have restricted access to abortion. This situation has made it difficult for many women to get safe treatment at an abortion clinic.

With the use of modern medicine, women today can take matters into their own hands. The abortion pill, which can only be prescribed by a healthcare provider, is a way to legally terminate a pregnancy. Despite the strict rules, women are still able to buy abortion pills through illegal ways, such as online or in Mexico.

The journey to creating abortion pills

Mifepristone (RU-486) was developed in 1980 by Roussel-Uclaf, a French pharmaceutical company. It was developed as an early abortion method; but due to protests, its distribution was halted.

In 1990, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the import of RU-486, and this resulted in a leading scientist testifying before Congress that the ban has hindered their research regarding the broad medical benefits of the drug.

Misoprostol is also used when treating medical abortions, but this medication is also commonly used in countries where abortions are illegal. Misoprostol is available to be purchased as it is legally used to for the prevention and treatment of gastric ulcers and excessive acid production.

Women, who do not have access to the abortion pill, find misoprostol to be a cheap and best option in procuring abortion. Since the medication is not given for abortion, these women pretend to suffer from ulcer to get a prescription.

RU-486, which helps block the body’s own progesterone, together with antibiotics are prescribed first to the patient. Then, misoprostol is taken 24 to 48 hours later – and is described as causing painful effects, including cramping and bleeding.

The process bears a similar resemblance to when women suffer from an early miscarriage, which is why the abortion pill is the most preferred method of abortion. The abortion pill is known to be quite effective with from eight to ten weeks pregnancy.

Are abortion pills safe?

With many other countries legally making the abortion pill available, RU-486 was finally approved by the U.S. FDA in 2000 for the use of medical abortions. It has been approved to be used in the first ten weeks of pregnancy with the FDA stating that surgical abortions should be the option for pregnancy later than that.

More than 2.8 million women have used RU-486 so far to terminate unwanted pregnancies. It is estimated that over 20% of abortions in the U.S. since 2013 have been performed using the abortion pill.

Though the effects of taking the abortion pill are quite painful, women are not in danger when they take the abortion pill. It has been estimated that less than 2% of women have suffered severe complications from taking the abortion pill, which is still less than the complication rate for childbirth.

Due to the fact that the abortion pill is still considered a new method, there is still a layer of scrutiny as well as more regulatory hurdles imposed.

Numerous researches have been conducted on the ways women can take the abortion pill with or without a doctor present. Through telemedicine and mail-order drugs, many women have obtained and taken the abortion pill with no severe effect or complication reported.

An uncertain road ahead for abortion pills

Forge ahead: Supporters of Planned Parenthood rally outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Detroit, Michigan, on 11 February 2017. Photo credit: Rebecca Cook/Reuters
Forge ahead: Supporters of Planned Parenthood rally outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Detroit, Michigan, on 11 February 2017. Photo credit: Rebecca Cook/Reuters

With the current Trump-Pence administration, things are expected to change when it comes to how and why the abortion pill is used. In fact, during his campaign, President Trump famously said that women who undergo abortions have to be punished.

Later on, due to the backlash, President Trump changed his comments to say that if ever abortions become illegal, then whoever performs this act will be held legally responsible.

If ever the Trump-Pence administration decides to put restrictions on limiting access to medical abortions, it does not mean that abortions will stop happening, as research has shown that more abortions take place in places where the abortion procedure is prohibited.

Currently, there have been no restrictions as the abortion pill is still available in all 50 states of the U.S. MIMS

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