As of 2022, abortion is no longer a constitutional right in the United States. Instead, each state can set its own laws regarding abortion, with many of them making it illegal or severely restricting it. At Emjoy we believe it’s a human right for all women to have access to safe abortions, so today we’re going to take a deep dive into abortion pills, how to access them safely in the US, as well as answering other important FAQs.
What are abortion pills and how do they work?
In the US, the “abortion pill" is the most common method to end a pregnancy safely and effectively in the first trimester. Taking the abortion pill to terminate a pregnancy is also called a "medical abortion." Medical abortions use two kinds of pills: mifepristone and misoprostol (or misoprostol only, if mifepristone is not available).
Mifepristone blocks pregnancy hormones and misoprostol causes cramping and bleeding, which evacuates the pregnancy like a miscarriage. A few hours of heavy bleeding and cramping and several days of lighter bleeding are part of the abortion process. This shows that the pills are working.
But as we said, medical abortions don’t always use mifepristone. Here’s how the two methods differ:
Method 1: Mifepristone + Misoprostol
This is the most common method of abortion with pills. You take a mifepristone pill first, followed by a misoprostol pill 24 to 48 hours later. This is the most effective method of abortion with pills with a 95-98% success rate. It has the fewest side effects and the medications are FDA approved.
This is the type of abortion with pills provided by clinics like Planned Parenthood and recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Method 2: Misoprostol Only
The misoprostol-only method has an 85% success rate, making it less effective than when mifepristone and misoprostol are both taken.This method is endorsed by the WHO in places where mifepristone is not available.
Risks and benefits of abortion pills
One of the benefits of abortion pills is that you don’t need medical assistance to take them. Instead, women can have a self-managed abortion in the comfort and privacy of their own homes. And regardless of whether you use the mifepristone and misoprostol method or the misoprostol-only method, both are effective and very safe. This makes it the preferred option for many women in the first trimester of pregnancy.
However, it’s important to note that while abortion pills can be used in the later stages of pregnancy, they’re most effective in the first twelve weeks. Using pills later in pregnancy is more painful and less effective, and the risk of complications can increase as the pregnancy progresses. And, like most medications, they do have some potential side effects including : diarrhea, vomiting, tiredness, mild fever or chills, headaches and dizziness. The free Miscarriage and Abortion Hotline can answer your medical questions including how to monitor for the rare case of complications.
How to take care of yourself when taking abortion pills
Ideally, you should take abortion pills on a day when you’re not working and don’t have big plans so you can manage bleeding and cramping more easily. If possible, clear your calendar for a few days at the weekend or take some time off work so that you can give yourself the care and self-kindness that you deserve.
Some practical things you can do to help ease any discomfort and pain you might feel include:
- Staying at home or in a comfortable space when taking the pills
- Using a heating pad or having a hot bath or shower
- Wearing comfortable clothes, including comfy underwear
- Having super-absorbent maxi pads available
- Eating easily digestible food like plain crackers, white rice, bananas, broth, and plain white bread
- Trying to distract yourself (movies, tv, magazines, coloring books, or video games)
- Calling a friend or other support person to help if needed
You may be going through a lot of emotions when you take the pill. That 's okay. Give yourself the time and space you need to deal with it. Things will get better with time.
What happens to your period after taking abortion pills?
Your period will go back to normal within 4-6 weeks after taking the pills. If it doesn’t return, you should take a pregnancy test.
You can start having sex again as soon as you’re ready, just make sure to use contraception as you could become pregnant straight again afterwards. If you’re reassessing your birth control options, we recommend listening to Emjoy’s audio collection all about birth control.
Where can I find abortion pills in the US?
In the US, abortion pills are available from abortion clinics, telemedicine services, some medical offices, and online pharmacies, many of which don't require a prescription. People may also find the pills across the border in Mexico. Now you can also get advance provision of pills from many telehealth providers, to keep in your medicine cabinet for future use. If you’re in the US, check out Plan C pills to find abortion pills online based on your state.
How much do abortion pills cost?
Abortion pills can cost anywhere from $40 to $600 or more, but on average pills cost $150-250 online.
- Online pharmacies and new telehealth abortion services charge $150 and up.
- The in-clinic option costs an average of $600.
- The Misoprostol-only method can be found online, or in other countries. It costs between $40 to $300.
And if the cost is a problem for you, know that many services accept insurance or Medicaid or offer discounts to those who can't pay.
How to stay safe when accessing abortion pills
Abortion shouldn’t be a criminal act, and restricting abortion access is considered by leading civil rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch to be a human rights violation. No one should ever be punished for providing their own medical care. However, to avoid legal trouble, the tips below can help you stay safe:
Be mindful of who you talk to about your choice
If you seek urgent care after a medication abortion, you don’t need to report to doctors that you’ve used abortion pills you purchased online. No one can detect that you've used the medications, even if a blood test is taken – medically it's the same as a miscarriage. Still, be sure that you find help you can trust.
Use free VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) on computers and phones
Combined with Incognito Mode, they can keep your identity and location private when you search for information and make purchases (like buying abortion pills online), as long as you aren’t logging into accounts linked to you.
Use encrypted email
Encrypted email services like ProtonMail and secure messaging providers like Signal can help you to keep online communications private.
Knowledge is power
We hope you've found this article useful. If you know anyone who could benefit from it, please share it. And to learn more about how to protect yourself from unwanted pregnancies, check out our article about the pros and cons of female condoms.