Mifepristone, commonly called RU486 or the abortion pill, is a medication prescribed by a doctor or through an abortion clinic and used with misoprostol to terminate a pregnancy during its early stages. It is one of the two possible initial drugs used in medical abortions, the other one being Methotraxate, a chemotherapy drug. A non-surgical method of abortion, Mifepristone has been derided by pro-life groups as a convenient way for women and minor girls to hide their pregnancies from others. While the pro-choice lobby touts its safety and efficacy, deaths related to its use have led to demands for its removal.
Mifepristone works by blocking a hormone that is needed during pregnancy, causing further development to stop. A follow-up pill called misoprostol is then used two days later, which causes the contractions by which the body goes into labor, expelling the fetus. To be effective the procedure must be done within the first 63 days.
After the second pill is taken the side effects kick in. Because part of the uterine lining is stripped as a result of these pills, bleeding and cramps - considered "normal" by abortionists - result, and last up to 16 days; often the bleeding is so heavy the individual must be taken back to the clinic or hospital for blood transfusions. Other pain, as well as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and headaches, occur as well.
One of the dangers of the procedure stems from the reliance on a second medication to empty the uterus. Failure of this medication will require that the uterus be emptied surgically to save the patient's life. As a result of the need for surgery, the number of potential side effects will increase as will the likelihood of fatalities.
In the early-1980s researchers at Roussel Uclaf in France were studying the ways and means of non-surgical abortions, which included antagonists to the progesterone and glucocorticoid receptors; after successful testings Mifepristone was licensed for use in France in 1988. It spread to other European nations beginning with the United Kingdom in 1992
Aware of the properties inherent within Mifepristone, it was banned from importation to the United States in 1989; later under the administration of Bill Clinton - with pressure from pro-abortion groups - the ban was reversed in 1993, and production of the pill was given to the Danco Group. Full approval for use was granted in September, 2000 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Serious infections and several deaths have resulted from the use of Mifepristone since 2000. Planned Parenthood, in a study of abortions made at their clinics between January 2005 and June 2008, determined that there were 92 serious infections requiring hospitalization, out of 227,823 women who had abortions ; in a story by the Associated Press there were at least seven women who had died from using it since 2000 .