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RU 486 The Abortion Pill Approved mifepristone Mifeprex pro-life pro-choice

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Updated March 30, 2010

RU 486 The Abortion Pill Approved

On September 28, 2000 the Food and Drug Administration announced the approval of RU 486, the controversial drug which is often referred to as the "abortion pill." RU 486 has long been the topic of heated debate among pro-lifers, pro-choicers, and politicians. Like many Americans, Presidential candidates Al Gore and George Bush have conflicting views of the abortion pill, with Gore supporting approval and Bush opposing approval of the abortion pill.

An estimated 500,000 women in Europe have used RU 486 since 1988. Today's approval of mifepristone, which will be marketed under the brand name Mifeprex, provides women in the United States with a pharmaceutical option for ending unplanned pregnancy.

The drug is expected to be available in physician's offices in about one month. However, physicians who prescribe the mifepristone must be willing to perform a surgical abortion should the drugs fail to terminate the pregnancy.

How Is RU 486 Used?

According to rules set by the FDA, the use of RU 486 requires three visits to a physician's office. RU 486 can only be prescribed by a physician after a HCG blood test, and a sonogram confirm and date the pregnancy. RU 486 is approved for use up to the 49th day of pregnancy, or about 7 weeks.

Once pregnancy is confirmed a woman returns to her physician's office for 2 doses of medication. First, she is given one dose of mifepristone, a synthetic steroid, which causes a fertilized egg to be unable to remain attached to the lining of the uterus. The second pill misoprostol, which causes uterine contractions, is taken 2 days later and terminates pregnancy anywhere from 6 hours to one week later. Both pills are taken in the physician's office.

Later a woman must return to her physician for confirmation that the pregnancy was terminated. If the pregnancy is still present a surgical abortion must be performed.

Possible side effects of RU 486 include uterine cramps, fatigue, nausea, and heavy bleeding. Most women will recover completely within a few hours or a week. The cost of the abortion pill is comparable to the cost of surgical abortion procedures at $300 to $500.

The success rate for RU 486 is 92 to 92.5% during the first seven weeks of pregnancy. However a small percent of women who take RU 486 will require blood or additional surgery.

A woman who suspects she may be pregnant with an unplanned pregnancy and who wants to use the abortion pill to terminate her pregnancy should contact her physician or an area clinic as soon as possible to discuss her options.

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