Everything You Need to Know About the Abortion Pill


Reproductive rights are currently under an unprecedented level of attack in the U.S., with Roe v. Wade likely to be overturned and abortion effectively banned in states including Texas and Idaho. In the absence of substantive protections for surgical abortions, more and more pregnant people are turning to medication abortions (or the “abortion pill”); however, despite the fact that this type of abortion is being increasingly legally threatened, it doesn’t have to be a last resort.

Below, find a guide to everything you need to know about using and accessing the abortion pill, as well as an explanation of its current legal status in the U.S.:

How does the abortion pill work?

The name “abortion pill” is a bit of a misnomer, because it’s actually two pills. First, the pregnant person will take a pill called mifepristone, which stops the pregnancy from growing; second, they will take a pill called misoprostol (up to 48 hours after taking the first pill) that will empty the uterus. Cramping and bleeding are normal if unpleasant side effects;q Planned Parenthood describes the ensuing process as “kind of like having a really heavy, crampy period.” It’s normal to pass large blood clots or clumps of tissue for several hours, with cramps continuing on and off for another 1-2 days.

Up to what point in a pregnancy can the abortion pill be taken?

The answer to this depends on where you live, but generally, a medication abortion can be accessed up to 77 days (11 weeks) after the first day of your last period; after that, your best option is likely an in-clinic (surgical) abortion.

How effective is the abortion pill?

The abortion pill is extremely effective, but the exact odds of it successfully ending a pregnancy depend on how far along you are. For people who are 8 weeks pregnant or less, the abortion pill works about 94 to 98 out of 100 times, but for people who are 10-11 weeks pregnant, it works about 87 out of 100 times. However, if you’re 10-11 weeks pregnant and are given an extra dose of medicine, the abortion pill works about 98 out of 100 times.

Where and how can the abortion pill be obtained?

The abortion pill isn’t sold over-the-counter, which means it must be obtained from a doctor, nurse, health clinic, or Planned Parenthood health center. It can cost up to $750, but could be low-cost or even free depending on your access to health insurance.

Can the abortion pill be mailed across state lines?

In December of 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled to permanently allow abortion pills by mail, meaning that pregnant people who find it difficult or impossible to access care in person can have a telemedicine appointment with a provider who can prescribe abortion pills and send them to the patient by mail. However, since that decision was handed down, 22 states have introduced a combined 104 proposals attempting to restrict medication abortions, such as by prohibiting the mailing of abortion pills or requiring them to be dispensed in person.


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