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Celebrating Fifteen Years of Safe, Legal Medication Abortion in the United States

To mark the 15th anniversary of the Food & Drug Administration’s approval of the use of mifepristone for nonsurgical abortions, the National Women’s Law Center welcomes a blog post from guest writer Melissa Grant, Vice President of Health Services at carafem. carafem is a network of health centers that provide women early abortion care.

Celebrating 15 years of legal medication abortion

On September 28th, 2000, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of mifepristone (also known as RU486 or “the abortion pill”) for use in the United States. This is a significant milestone since mifepristone is the first and only FDA-approved medication to provide women with a safe and effective nonsurgical option to end an early pregnancy. Since then, more than 2 million women throughout the country have chosen medication abortion.

What is medication abortion?

Medication abortion is a safe and effective alternative to surgical abortion. It is more private, less invasive, and can be a less expensive option for women looking to end an unintended pregnancy. Women are given mifepristone in the medical office, to be followed by another medication called misoprostol, usually taken at home the same day or up to 5 days later. Women can choose when and where to complete their abortion. Medication abortion does not require surgery or anesthesia, and gives women options when it comes to working with their bodies and their comfort level.

Advances in provision of medication abortion

Fifteen years later, we are seeing improvements in the provision of this method: expanded gestational window that women can have a medication abortion, a more flexible amount of time that women can take the second medication (misoprostol), different ways of taking the medication so that women’s preferences and abilities can be respected, and different follow-up options (such as checking in with your provider over the phone versus meeting with them again in-person). Such advances in abortion care have been possible with the legalization of mifepristone, along with the surging popularity that this option has gained among women around the world. Indeed, the proportion of women in the United States deciding to end a pregnancy by medication abortion has been steadily growing since mifepristone’s approval.

Looking forward

One in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime. This statistic is staggering in that it reveals just how common the experience is. Knowing that so many women have and will have an abortion, carafem is dedicated to providing the information and tools they need. We’ve listened to women when they’ve told us they want to understand the abortion experience, to have more options, and to feel in control of this potentially difficult decision. carafem is proud to focus exclusively on the provision of this method of early abortion care. With mifepristone’s anniversary, carafem looks forward to a bright future for the medication’s role in improving women’s access to safe abortion.

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