How Do Abortion Pills Work?

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Published on 3 Aug 2022, 20:02
You may have heard of "abortion pills" - here's what these medications are and what they do (and don't do).


More Information:
WHO Guidelines:
Kaiser Family Foundation Factsheet:
Doctors Without Borders Video Series:
Planned Parenthood Factsheet:
Abortion Pill Info from SASS:

Abortion Laws by Country:
Abortion Laws by US State:
Abortion Pill Laws By US State:
Legal Helpline:

To learn more about this topic, start your googling with these keywords:
- Medication abortion/pill-based abortion: an abortion that uses pills, rather than surgical intervention
- Self-managed abortion: a pill-based abortion done by an individual without medical guidance
- Progesterone: a hormone made by the body that plays a role in the menstrual cycle and pregnancy
- Cervix: the narrow passage forming the lower end of the uterus
- Contraction: a shortening of the uterine muscles

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Abubeker FA, Lavelanet A, Rodriguez MI, Kim C. (2020). Medical termination for pregnancy in early first trimester (≤ 63 days) using combination of mifepristone and misoprostol or misoprostol alone: a systematic review. BMC Womens Health 20(1):142.

Allen R & O'Brien BM. (2009) Uses of misoprostol in obstetrics and gynecology. Reviews in Obstetrics and Gynecology 2(3):159-68.

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ Committee on Practice Bulletins—Gynecology, Society of Family Planning. (2020). Medication Abortion Up to 70 Days of Gestation: ACOG Practice Bulletin, Number 225. Obstetrics and Gynecology 136(4)

Cadepond F, Ulmann A, Baulieu EE. (1997). RU486 (mifepristone): mechanisms of action and clinical uses. Annu Rev Med. 48:129-56.

Garris R & Kirkwood, C (1989). Misoprostol: A prostaglandin E1 analogue. American Journal of Hospital Pharmacy 46 (10): 2162–2170.

Papp C, Schatz F, Krikun G, Hausknecht V, Lockwood CJ. (2000) Biological mechanisms underlying the clinical effects of mifepristone (RU 486) on the endometrium. Early Pregnancy 4(4):230-9.

Pierce S, Bakker R, Myers DA, Edwards RK. (2018) Clinical Insights for Cervical Ripening and Labor Induction Using Prostaglandins. AJP Rep. 8(4):e307-e314.

Schreiber CA, Creinin MD, Atrio J, Sonalkar S, Ratcliffe SJ, Barnhart KT. (2018) Mifepristone Pretreatment for the Medical Management of Early Pregnancy Loss. N Engl J Med 378(23):2161-2170.