How are abortion pills different from Plan B? What there is to know

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Abortion rights advocates demonstrate outside the United States Supreme Court on Wednesday, December 1, 2021 in Washington, D.C. A leaked Supreme Court opinion revealed the court’s intentions to overturn Roe v. Wade, a landmark decision that protected the right to abortion nationwide. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

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Leaked Supreme Court documents revealed the court voted to repeal Roe v. Wade, a historic decision from 1973 that protects the right to have an abortion. The leaked documents were an early draft of a majority opinion, which means the decision is not official, but maybe soon, Politico reported.

Medical abortion, or the use of abortion pills, could become an essential resource for people seeking to terminate a pregnancy in a post-Roe America. The pill is already widely used – more than half of all abortions in 2020 were achieved through the use of abortion pills, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.

Abortion rights activists say if Roe is overthrown, demand for abortion pills will skyrocket. Rebecca Gomperts, a doctor who founded a nonprofit organization in Austria to provide abortion pills to American patients, told the Washington Post that she seen this happen when Texas passed a controversial “heartbeat bill” that essentially bans abortions six weeks into a pregnancy.

But what is the abortion pill and how does it work? Here’s what you need to know.

Are abortion pills and Plan B the same thing?

No. Birth control pills and abortion drugs work in different ways, and they cannot be used interchangeably, according to Planned Parenthood.

Birth control works by preventing sperm from fertilizing an egg. Hormonal methods of birth control, such as the pill, patch, IUD and more, prevent ovulation, or the process of releasing an egg from the ovary, according to Verywell Health.

In other words, birth control ensures that there is no egg for sperm to fertilize.

Emergency contraception, also known as the morning after pill or Plan B pill, works the same way. You gotta take it inside 72 hours of unprotected sex and is more effective the earlier it is taken, says Healthline.

According to Planned Parenthood, a birth control pill will not cause a miscarriage in someone who is already pregnant.

On the other hand, abortion pills are used to prevent a pregnancy from continuing and to empty it from the uterus.

How does the abortion pill work?

Medical abortion requires the use of two types of pills – one containing mifepristone and the other containing misoprostol.

Mifepristone, the pill most people refer to when they use the phrase “abortion pill,” prevents a pregnancy from progressing by blocking progesterone, a hormone essential for the development of a pregnancy, according to the Kaiser. Family Foundation.

Misoprostol, on the other hand, is taken 24 to 48 hours after mifepristone. The drug triggers cramping and bleeding, which causes the uterus to contract and empty in a manner “similar to an early miscarriage”, the Kaiser Family Foundation said.

If you are getting a medical abortion through your healthcare provider, you can pick up the mifepristone at their office and take the misoprostol home to administer later.

Misoprostol is usually taken in the form of four tablets, Planned Parenthood said.

Cramping and bleeding may start two to four hours after taking misoprostol and may last for several hours. People may also experience side effects like breast tenderness, fever, nausea and fatigue, according to Planned Parenthood.

Is the abortion pill safe?

Yes. The abortion pill is widely considered to be very effective and to have a very low risk of complications.

In fact, the abortion pill sends fewer people in the emergency room every year than Tylenol or Viagra, Bloomberg News reported.

Medical abortion works more than 95% of the time in teenage pregnancies, and a 2013 paper that looked at data from 45,000 women found that only 0.3% of them were hospitalized after a medical abortion. reported the outlet.

Who should not have a medical abortion?

According to the Mayo Clinic, medical abortions are not recommended for people who:

  • Are nine weeks or more into their pregnancy

  • Have an IUD

  • Having a suspected ectopic pregnancy, or a pregnancy where the pregnancy develops outside the uterus

  • Have certain medical conditions, such as various bleeding disorders, severe lung, kidney, or liver disease, or an uncontrolled seizure disorder

  • Take blood thinners

  • Are allergic to the drugs used

  • Do not have access to emergency care

Beyond that, the choice between medical abortion and surgical abortion, or in-clinic abortion, is up to the individual.

Where do people get abortion pills?

People seeking medical abortion can have several optionsaccording to Plan C, an organization financially sponsored by the nonprofit National Women’s Health Network.

Abortion pills may be available at clinics such as reproductive health, family planning, or women’s health centers. They can also be ordered online through telehealth services that do a video or phone consultation before prescribing the pills.

But that doesn’t mean they’re easy for everyone. They can be expensive, ranging from $40 to $600 or more, depending on Plan C. In 32 states, only doctors are allowed to prescribe the pills, and in six states the use of telemedicine to obtain abortion pills is illegal, according to Plan C. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Fourteen other states require a doctor to be present when a person takes the first pill, meaning abortion telemedicine is also banned there, the organization said.

As a result of these restrictions, some people have turned to online abortion pill suppliers in other states or countries to purchase the pills without a prescription.

Will the abortion pill affect my fertility in the future?

No. In most cases, medical abortion is unlikely to have any effect impact on someone’s fertility, according to Planned Parenthood. It also does not increase the risks associated with future pregnancy.

Vandana Ravikumar is a McClatchy Real-Time reporter. She grew up in northern Nevada and studied journalism and political science at Arizona State University. Previously, she reported for USA Today, The Dallas Morning News and Arizona PBS.

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