Mifepristone..."The Abortion Pill": The Facts
Sujatha SebastianOn September 28, 2000 the Food and Drug Administration after several years of research approved Mifepristone, better known as the "abortion pill", for distribution in the United States. The FDA's decision will have a definite impact on women's health care in the United States. There will be social and medical repercussions. The drug has caused controversy not only in antiabortion groups, but in Pro-Choice groups as well. Critics are worried that an abortion available in pill form will be "too easy". They are worried that use of the pill will be abused. What many people do not realize is that while Mifepristone will be beneficial to women's health care, it is not without side effects. In light of all the recent coverage that the "abortion pill" has been given in the media, and all the misinformation surrounding it, I decided researching that Mifepristone would be interesting and helpful. The purpose of my paper is to discover how Mifepristone works, how it is administered, and to look at its side effects. I want to demonstrate the benefit Mifepristone will be to women's health care, while showing that it is not an "easy" solution to abortion.
"Mifepristone, formerly known as RU-486, is a medical alternative to aspiration abortion."(1)  It works by blocking progesterone from being absorbed into the uterus. When this happens the uterus sheds the endometrium (lining in the uterus, therefore inducing menstruation. (2  When Mifepristone is used as a method for abortion is it administered as part of a three step process. The first step is that 200 mg of Mifepristone is given orally in a doctor's office. Then within 24 to 48 hours the patient is given 400 mg a drug called Misoprostol either orally or in a suppository form. Misoprostol, which is a synthetic hormone, is used to get the cervix to soften and dilate as well as getting the uterus to relax. The embryo is then expelled.(2)  This is supposed to happen approximately fours hours after the administration of the drug. The final step is an examination by a medical professional to make sure the abortion is complete. (2) 
There are restrictions as to who can use this medical method of abortion. It is only intended for women to use up to nine weeks after their last menstruation period. Women who are under 18 or over 35, epileptic, diabetics, or suffering from heart, lung, kidney, liver, stomach or intestinal disorders are ineligible. As are women who have taken steroids within the past 12 months, or deemed overweight or a heavy smoker. Women who have used an IUD or hormonal contraceptive within three months prior to conception are not allowed to take Mifepristone as well.(2) 
Like any drug or medical method there are side effects to using Mifepristone and Misoprostol. It is the number of side effects and degree of each that critics argue about. The FDA has determined that taking Mifepristone does cause various degrees of pain. Short term physical effects can be pelvic pain, vaginal bleeding, nausea, diarrhea, and fatigue.(2)  There are psychological side effects as well. In some cases products of the conception are visualized. (3) 
The use of Mifepristone will have a definite impact on reproductive freedom in this country and the world. (3)  It is seen as less invasive procedure which gives the woman more freedom and privacy. In the United States it has been reported by the Alan Guttmacher Institute that eighty-nine percent of the abortions occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Mifepristone will allow women another option to terminate a pregnancy in its early stages. (2)  Twenty-four percent of the world's population lives in places where abortion is not legal. (3)  As a result a significant population of women perform their own abortions or receive illegal abortions which kills them. The medical method of abortion would allow women in these areas of the world to receive a safe method of abortion.
A major issue that critics of Mifepristone have is that they feel that the drug will allow abortions to become "too easy". But the drug is only administered in a medical office and requires at least three visits. The last visit is an examination to see that the abortion is complete and that the mother is in good health. Before the patient is given Mifeprex tablets (Mifepristone) she must sign an agreement in which she acknowledges that there are side effects, that there is a three step process, and that 5 to 8 women out of every hundred do not have successful medical abortions and need surgical abortions . (5)  Critics worry that the drug will cause an increase in the number of women who have abortions. Supporters of the drug cite the fact that in France, where the drug is manufactured and was first administered, there has not been an increase in the abortion rate. (2) 
Mifepristone will change the way that abortions are administered. This method gives a woman more autonomy and does not require her to go through surgical procedure. It can also prevent pregnancy by taken as soon as a day after she has had intercourse. This new method will allow more women to have access to safe abortions. Mifepristone opens the door to a new area of medicine in which previously surgical procedures are now approached in a medical manner. Whether in support of or against Mifepristone one has to recognize the new technology the drug represents.
One of the problems I had when researching information was finding unbiased information. Both pro and anti Mifepristone groups used "research" and statistics to their benefit. Distinguishing the difference between opinion and fact was difficult. This is especially true because there is not a lot of accurate information about Mifepristone published by reliable sources. This is due to the fact that Mifepristone has just recently been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Mifepristone that will be beneficial to women's health care and medicine. But one must realize that it is not without side effects and cannot be seen as an "easy" solution to abortion.
WWW Sources1)www.plannedparenthood.org/mifepristone.html , Mifepristone
2)www.rascalnut.com/naral.ohio/RU486.html , The Facts about Mifepristone (RU 486)
3)www.mja.com.au/public/issues/sep15/henshaw/henshaw.html , Mifepristone
4)http://jinx.sis.unsw.edu.au/~greenlft/1994/137/137p28htm , "Abortion Pill": A Woman's Right to Choose by, Kath Gelber
5)www.popcouncil.orgrhpdev/mifeprex/patient%5Fagreement.html ,The Patient Agreement Mifeprex (Mifepristone) Tablets
6) www.pages.map.com/lroberge/ru486.htm , RU486: The Hidden Effects by Lawrence F. Roberge
6) www.nrlc.org/ru486/propsedFDAregs.html , RU486 *Please note that some of the sources read during my research were from biased sources (the National Right to Life Committee web site for example). Facts were not used from these sources in my paper. These sources were instead used to discover the arguments anti-Mifepristone groups had and to see the false information they were publishing about the drug.
08/06/2005, from a Reader on the Web
I took that pill and almost blead to death now i have have to say it's not as easy as it sounds it is very painful like child birth but more blooder atleast for me i now have endromitrious and may have to have my women parts removed i had nothing before i took those pills i'm 37 so i'm just saying better think it out before you take it because it's dangerious i have a son who is 18 it was easier for me to have him then go through childbirth than taking those pills becuse i'm still not well and it has been 7 months
For what it's worth, I though I'd share my personal experience using Mifepristone almost a month ago.. After having made the difficult choice to abort, I learned of this pill as an alternative option to having the traditional surgical procedure. Of course, as anyone would, I opted to try the pill because it seemed -less- painful and was something I could do in the privacy of my own home. After having been given the first pill, Mifepristone, at the doctors office on a Friday afternoon, I finished out my day at work with minimal side-effects at that point. The Mifepristone made me slightly sick to my stomach, but compared to the ongoing morning sickness I'd been going through, it wasn't so bad. (ha ha) Misoprostol was the next step, given to me in the form of 4 tablets, to be inserted vaginally myself at home. I was also given a full bottle of Vicodin, as well as a bottle of 800mg Ibuprophen for the pain the doctor anticipated I would encounter (this worried me a little). Late Satuday afternoon, I'd say around 4:30pm, scared to death not knowing what to expect once everything started, and knowing I couldn't turn back now, I inserted the tablets and took 1 Vicodin as directed. About 30 minutes from the time I did this I began to have cramping comparable to what you would feel during a typical menstrual period.. but not for long. Within an hour I had severe cramping.. I'd been warned the pain could equal that of actual child-birth contractions, and this must have been it. (I've never had a child, so I can only imagine) I was to the point of feeling like I would pass out if the pain didn't let up when I passed the first, and largest, portion of what -was- the pregnancy.. Many people will tell you that all you'll see is blood and clots, and it's unlikely anything will look like actual tissue.. but mine sure did.. Large masses of gray tissue were expelled for the following numerous hours. Somewhere close to midnight that night I felt relief enough to know it was over.. or so I thought. 4 days after this, while I -should- have been feeling more or less back to normal, I began to experience increasing pain in my abdomen. I called and spoke with my doctor about this, but felt as though she didn't seem concerned at all. No more than 2 hours after hanging up the phone I developed a fever that shot through the roof out of nowhere, and my heart began beating unbelieveably TOO fast. The "increasing pain" in my abdomen now had me laying in bed, hardly able to move. I called my mother who left work and rushed to my home to get me. I couldn't even get out of bed to let her in when she arrived I hurt so bad. I ended up in the emergency room that afternoon with a heartbeat of 143 beats/min.. (Check your own and then you'll see just how high 143 is) and a 103 temperature I ended up fighting to keep away for the next 4 days. To make a long story short, that first afternoon I spent over 8 hours in a treatment room in the emergency area before they got my vitals under control and discovered the cause of everything.. The abortion pill I used began attacking my own body in a sense, and began a horrendous infection in my uterus. In the end I spent a week in the hospital on 3 of the most potent anti-biotics available, as well as some heavy-duty narcotic pain killers, while specialists from the surrounding hospitals kept watch over me constantly. It's now been almost a month since then, and I still have to have blood work done, as well as ultrasounds every now and then to keep monitoring my recovery. I have constant sharp pains in my abdomen and have been told the scar tissue left over from the infection may now keep me from becoming pregnant in the future.. It's all so much to deal with, and honestly, I don't think I've come to terms with everything yet. It still feels like a bad dream. Regardless of my experience with the pill and side effects it caused me, I can still step back and look at the broad picture of things.. The majority of women who use this method have no problems, and for them, this is a good way to go. I really do think it's a better choice for most, than to have the surgical abortion.. BUT - be warned.. It's not "easy" using the pill, and there's no way to know how you're body will react to it. I never knew I'd go through the things I did because of it. This is definitely not something to be looked at as the "new contraceptive" either, as some are saying. It's so risky, putting your body through something like this. It could take a toll on you that will effect the rest of your life. Like me.. Will I ever be able to have kids after everything that happened? Every woman out there should begin by being aware of how to avoid an unwanted pregnancy from the start. Such as life happens, and most protection only offers 99.9% effectiveness, we forget that's NOT 100%.. If you still become pregnant and choose to abort, do your homework.. read about all possibilities, and all side effects for each.. then decide what's best for you. I think the pill is a great option.. but be careful, it's certainly not without it's flaws.