A woman browsing online about what medical abortion entails.

There are two main types of abortion: medical and surgical. Abortion providers refer to a medical abortion as the abortion pill. This method uses two drugs to terminate a pregnancy.

There are limits to abortion in Pennsylvania and to the abortion pill. Get the facts to know what to expect and if you qualify for a medical abortion.

What are the Drugs Used in the Abortion Pill Method?

The abortion pill method uses two drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) closely regulates mifepristone, called Mifeprex. Only licensed abortion providers can prescribe the drug.

The FDA has approved using mifepristone only through 10 weeks of pregnancy (70 days from the first day of your last period). In addition to mifepristone, a medical abortion requires the use of misoprostol. 

How Do the Drugs Work?

The first drug, mifepristone, blocks the hormone progesterone, causing the lining of the uterus to thin. Without progesterone, the embryo cannot stay implanted and grow. This drug terminates the pregnancy.

Anywhere from 24 to 48 hours after taking mifepristone, the woman takes misoprostol. The second drug causes the uterus to contract, expelling the pregnancy through the vagina.

What are the Side Effects and Risks I Can Expect?

In addition to bleeding and cramping, the Mayo Clinic lists the following as potential side effects:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache

The Mayo Clinic lists the following as potential risks:

  • Incomplete abortion, which may need to be followed by surgical abortion
  • An ongoing pregnancy if the procedure doesn’t work
  • Heavy and prolonged bleeding
  • Infection
  • Fever

Who Cannot Have a Medical Abortion?

There are several reasons why you may not qualify for a medical abortion. Those include:

  • You are past the 10-week deadline. Abortion providers may prescribe the abortion pill after this date, but studies show the farther along you are, the less effective the drugs become.
  • Have an intrauterine device (IUD). Your healthcare provider must remove this form of contraception before you have a medical abortion.
  • Your pregnancy is ectopic. An ectopic pregnancy develops outside the uterus and can be life-threatening. An ultrasound can determine if your pregnancy is ectopic.
  • Have certain medical conditions.
  • Take a blood thinner.
  • Are allergic to the drugs. 
  • Can’t make follow-up visits to confirm the abortion is complete or don’t have access to emergency care.

What are Pennsylvania’s Abortion Laws?

  • Current Pennsylvania abortion laws allow abortion through 23 weeks and 6 days. This date is well past the limit for the abortion pill method. 
  • A woman must have mandated counseling and wait 24 hours before getting the abortion.
  • If you are under 18, a parent or guardian must give permission.
  • Married women are required to notify their spouses. 

How Can Next Step Assist Me?

At Next Step, we want to hear about your situation and provide unbiased information about your options for your unplanned pregnancy. Although we do not provide or refer for abortion, we can offer medical referrals within the community to get you the pregnancy care you need.

All of our services are provided at no cost and are completely confidential. Make an appointment today, and let’s get you started on your next step.

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