Chemical abortion can be caused by certain drugs which act upon the hormones of the mother to create a situation in which a newly-formed human being, known as a zygote or embryo at this stage, cannot survive. Most of these chemicals are used in combination: one drug to ensure that the embryo is killed, and a second to induce contractions so that the baby is expelled from the mother's uterus. These are often referred to as 'pharmaceutical abortions'.
Chemical Abortion in the First Trimester: Mifepristone
What is Mifepristone?
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Mifepristone (also known as RU-486) is the drug commonly known as the abortion pill. Already available in the United States, it has recently been approved for use in Canada by Health Canada. Known under the brand name Mifegymiso, it may be available as soon as this year. Health Canada has approved it for use up to 7 weeks into a pregnancy. (1)
How does it work?
Mifepristone is taken orally in pill form and works by blocking the hormone progesterone. This deprives the developing child of nutrients, and causes the lining of the uterus to break down. (2) The pill is taken by the woman at the clinic or hospital on her first visit. A day or two later the woman will take Misoprostol to induce contractions, causing her uterus to expel the baby and other tissues. This may happen at the clinic/hospital or at home, where the woman has no medical supervision.
About half of women complete the abortion within 4-5 hours of taking the Misoprostol and most within a few days (3). Two weeks after the abortion women have a follow-up appointment to ensure she is no longer pregnant. If the woman is still pregnant she may be encouraged to have a surgical abortion.
Women commonly experience severe abdominal pain and nausea during a chemical abortion (3). 1 out of every 100 women who use this drug requires surgical intervention due to heavy bleeding (4). Serious side effects can include death from sepsis, severe infection, and serious blood loss requiring transfusions (5). Canada stopped a clinical trial of RU-486 in 2001 when a woman in the trial died from sepsis after taking the RU-486 drug to induce an abortion (6).
The abortion pill has roughtly four times the rate of adverse events than surgical abortion (20.0% of women in the chemical abortion group and 5.6% of women in the surgical abortion group). For example, hemorrhage was experienced by 15.6% of chemical abortion patients compared with 2.1% of surgical patients (7).
Possibility of Reversal:
Doctors in the United States have had success in helping women reverse the effects of Mifepristone (before the second pill, misoprostol, is taken) and carry their babies to term. Since Mifepristone works by blocking the progesterone needed to nourish the baby, this reversal treatment works by flooding the body with progesterone to counteract the effects of Mifepristone. For more information, visit abortionpillreversal.com.
A booklet on the risks of Mifegymiso has been produced by Alliance for Life Ontario, and is available at our office. It contains information from studies showing the physical risks of Mifegymiso, experiences from women, and more.
View the booklet online, or contact us for a copy.
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The Morning-After Pill - "Plan B"
What is the morning-after pill?
Also known as “emergency contraception”, the morning-after pill is advertised as a way to prevent pregnancy if taken within five days after unprotected sex.
In Canada, the following emergency contraceptive pills are available without a prescription:
- Next Choice
- Option 2
- Plan B
Health Canada recently issued a warning that these pills are less effective in women weighing 165-176 pounds, and not effective in women over 176 pounds.
Does the Morning-After Pill Cause an Abortion?
There is evidence that the morning-after pill can cause an abortion. (8) Research shows that Plan B and similar emergency ‘contraceptives’ do not always prevent ovulation. This allows an egg to be released and fertilized, resulting in a new life. There is evidence to suggest that the morning-after pill works by altering the environment of the uterus, making it difficult for an embryo to successfully implant. Since life begins at conception, when a new, genetically unique human being is created, the action of this pill would cause that unborn child to die.
"Studies Show All Forms of Emergency Contraception Cause Abortion", Live Action News (2014).
"Study: Plan B More Likely to Cause Abortion Than Prevent Pregnancy", LifeSiteNews (2015).
"New Studies Show All Emergency Contraceptives Can Cause Early Abortion", Charlotte Lozier Institute (2014).
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- Health Canada, Regulatory Decision: Mifegymiso. Accessed March 23, 2016. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/prodpharma/rds-sdr/drug-med/rds_sdr_mifegymiso_160063-eng.php
- Mifeprex product website, Frequently Asked Questions. Accessed March 23, 2016. earlyoptionpill.com/faq/
- National Right to Life, "RU-486". Accessed March 23, 2016. www.nrlc.org/abortion/ru486/
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Mifeprex Medication Guide. Accessed March 23, 2016. www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/Drugsafety/ucm088643.pdf
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Mifepristone U.S. Postmarketing Adverse Events Summary through 04/30/2011. Accessed March 23, 2016. www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/DrugSafety/PostmarketDrugSafetyInformationforPatientsandProviders/UCM263353.pdf
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Mifepristone: Approval Process and Postmarketing Activities. Accessed March 23, 2016. www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Testimony/ucm112562.htm
- Niinimaki, M, et. al. "Immediate Complications After Medical Compared With Surgical Termination of Pregnancy." Obstetrics and Gynecology, October 2009. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19888037
- Kahlenborn, Stanford, and Larimore. "Postfertilization Effect of Hormonal Emergency Contraceptive." The Annals of Pharmacotherapy, March 2002. Accessed November 4, 2016. http://polycarp.org/postfertilization.pdf