Medication Abortion: FAQ

What is medication abortion?

Medication abortion, also called the ‘abortion pill’, is actually a combination of two drugs: Mifeprex and and Misoprostol. When taken together as directed, these two medications will terminate a pregnancy and cause the body to expel it. It’s a method of abortion for women in their first ten weeks of pregnancy. Another method of abortion available during the first trimester is aspiration abortion, which is also called surgical abortion.


How does medication abortion work?

Medication abortion works through a combination of two drugs: Mifeprex and Misoprostol. Mifeprex blocks the hormone progesterone, which plays an essential role in maintaining and supporting a pregnancy. When progesterone is blocked, the pregnancy will stop growing. Misoprostol is a drug that causes the uterus to contract, helping the body to expel the pregnancy.


Is medication abortion safe?

Both Mifeprex and Misoprostol are very safe, and have been used by thousands of women to end early pregnancy. Studies show that the combination of these two drugs is a safe and effective method of abortion.


What side-effects should I expect?

Typical short-term side effects of medication abortion include strong cramps and bleeding. Many women also experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever and chills.


What will happen during my medication abortion appointments?

Medication abortion will involve two visits to the Clinic and a visit to a lab (note that if you are a first-time client, you will first have an additional registration appointment at the Clinic).

The first step you’ll take is to get a simple blood test at a laboratory. Then, you’ll come to the Clinic for your first appointment with us, which  will last about two hours and will include an ultrasound exam to ensure you are no more than 10 weeks pregnant. Your provider will also discuss the medication abortion process with you in detail. At the end of this visit, you’ll take one tablet of Mifeprex. You’ll be given four tablets of Misoprostol to take at home, as well as a prescription for a preventive antibiotic, anti-nausea medication, and pain medication.

At your follow-up appointment, 7-14 days after the first visit, your provider will check to confirm that the abortion is complete. This will likely involve an ultrasound, and/or a blood test.


Does medication abortion hurt?

Women report a wide range of experiences when they take the abortion pill. Some feel that the cramping feels similar to a heavy period or miscarriage; others say it feels worse. Some women experience nausea, while others do not. We recommend taking ibuprofen or another painkiller to manage your pain.


What will happen after my appointment?

24-48 hours after your first appointment, you will take four pills of Misoprostol at home. We recommend taking them during the day, so that you can monitor your body and care for yourself. You will likely start experiencing cramping between 30 minutes and 4 hours after taking Misoprostol. Bleeding may start at the same time as the cramps, a little earlier, or a little later. Most women will pass the pregnancy between 2-24 hours after taking Misoprostol. Within a few hours after passing the pregnancy, your bleeding and cramping should improve significantly. You can manage your pain and/or nausea with medications. Many women feel more at ease when they have a support person to be with them during the abortion process, and we recommend that you have a support person with you.

6-16 days after your first appointment, you’ll return to the clinic for a follow-up appointment, so your provider can check to make sure the abortion is complete.


How effective is medication abortion?

Medication abortion is very effective: in 97% of cases, the medications successfully terminate a pregnancy and cause a woman’s body to expel it completely.


How much does medication abortion cost?

If you have insurance through Medi-Cal, your medication abortion will be fully covered. If you qualify for Family PACT, you will likely be eligible for another state program that will cover the cost of your abortion visits. If you do not have Medi-Cal, or if you are covered by a private insurance plan, you might also be eligible for the same state program that would cover the cost of your visits, if your income is below a certain amount. If you do not qualify for any of these forms of coverage, we use a sliding scale fee model to determine the cost of services. No one will be turned away due to an inability to pay. You can find out more about the cost of our services here.

If you have private insurance, please note that while we may be able to see you for medication abortion, we may not be able to see you for other services afterwards.


Who is eligible for Medication Abortion at the Clinic?

We can see you for medication abortion if:

  • You have or qualify for Medi-Cal
  • You have or qualify for Family PACT – though Family PACT does not cover abortion, you will likely be eligible for Medi-Cal Presumptive Eligibility, a state program that will cover the cost of your visits.
  • You have insurance but don’t want to use it for your abortion. You might be eligible for Medi-Cal Presumptive Eligibility, a state program that would cover the cost of your visits, if your income is below a certain amount. If you are not eligible for Presumptive Eligibility, you will be charged on our sliding scale.  Please note, though, that if you are privately insured, we may not be able to see you for further care after your medication abortion.
  • You qualify for Presumptive Eligibility, a state program that covers the cost of care for low-income women who are pregnant, regardless of their insurance status. This means that we may be able to see you for medication abortion even if you have a private insurance plan, if your income lies below a certain level. Please note, though, that if you are privately insured and qualify for PE, we may not be able to see you for further care after your medication abortion.


What other options for abortion are there?

Another option for abortion during the first trimester (up to 14 weeks of pregnancy) is aspiration abortion, an in-clinic procedure in which a pregnancy is terminated by means of gentle suction to remove the lining of the uterus. Women’s Community Clinic does not currently offer this option, but if you decide that this type of abortion is a better option for you, we can refer you to some excellent providers.


Is medication abortion legal?

Yes, abortion has been legal in the United States since 1973. Medication abortion became available in the US in 2000.


How is the abortion pill different from emergency contraception?

Emergency contraception is a form of birth control, not an abortion: it prevents a pregnancy from occurring. If a pregnancy has already occurred, emergency contraception will no longer be effective, even in large doses. A medication abortion, on the other hand, is used to terminate an existing pregnancy.


How can I support someone who is having or has had a medication abortion?

Here are some helpful resources that explain how to be a good support person:


Can I get pregnant again after taking the abortion pill?

Yes. Research shows that most women can become pregnant again within as little as two weeks after taking the abortion pill. Because ovulation happens before your menstrual period, it is possible to become pregnant before your first post-abortion menstrual period. Your provider can help you review birth control options to start after your medication abortion.


Why do women choose the abortion pill instead of an aspiration abortion?

Here are some of the reasons why some women choose medication abortion instead of aspiration abortion:

  • It can be done during the earliest weeks of pregnancy
  • It is less invasive
  • Some women feel it offers more privacy
  • Some women feel it gives them more control over their body
  • Some women feel that it’s more ‘natural’

Here are some of the reasons why some women choose aspiration abortion instead of medical abortion:

  • It requires fewer office visits
  • The procedure is quick
  • It is slightly more effective than medication abortion because there is less risk of an incomplete procedure
  • Women are less likely to experience heavy bleeding at home