Recent changes have expanded access to abortion pills across the United States. In particular, the FDA now allows mifepristone distribution, the first step of the two-part medical abortion process, in certified pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS. However, the availability of abortion pills in pharmacies raises several concerns.
How Do Abortion Pills Work?
Medical abortion refers to a two-step process to terminate a pregnancy. With this method, you take two medications 24 – 72 hours apart. Mifepristone, the first medication, blocks the hormone progesterone, which is necessary for a healthy pregnancy environment. After this, the provider administers misoprostol, causing the uterus to expel the pregnancy.
Are They Safe?
Due to the new expansion of these medications, it’s normal to have some questions about their safety. Since they are now available in neighborhood pharmacies in some states, it’s essential to know that these medications are often not taken under medical supervision. Therefore, there are specific risks with taking these pills, as well as with surgical abortion procedures. These include:
- Heavy bleeding
- Complications from an incomplete procedure
- Contraindications if pregnancy is ectopic
- Potential life-threatening sepsis if complications are left untreated
Why They Are In Pharmacies
The main change that sparked this new availability of abortion pills in pharmacies was the aforementioned label change by the FDA. This meant that the label for mifepristone is eligible for availability in specified pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens. Previously, abortion pills were only administered in person, but the COVID-19 pandemic changed that.
Mifepristone vs. Misoprostol
As stated above, the new changes to abortion pill access only pertain to the process’s first medication: mifepristone. Mifepristone blocks the hormone progesterone, a necessary component of a developing pregnancy. If you or someone you know took the first pill and regret it, abortion pill reversal is a possibility. It’s important to reach out as soon as possible to look into this option. Many women given these pills, especially in a pharmacy, are unlikely to know this information. Doctors prescribe Misoprostol, the second pill, for stomach ulcers, so it is already available in pharmacies.
Risks of Selling Abortion Pills in Pharmacies
There are risks to selling medical abortion pills in pharmacies. Even if someone takes the medication under a doctor’s orders, lack of oversight is a problem. Here are some of the concerns:
- No direct medical care
- No confirmation of pregnancy viability
- No confirmation of gestational age
- Heavy and life-threatening bleeding is possible
- The “black box” warning label, while still mentioning the risk of life-threatening sepsis, no longer advises patients to bring the medication guide to the ER
- Medication is contraindicated for women with IUDs
These risks associated with abortion pills are often related to the fact that many women do not get confirmation of gestational age and viable intrauterine pregnancy through an ultrasound. Without this confirmation, you might not know if your pregnancy will continue. In addition, women with an IUD placement may not understand that the pills are unsafe for them. With these concerns in mind, the risks of accessing medical abortions in pharmacies are real.
Clearway Clinic provides free, confidential medical consultations for pregnant women considering abortion. Our services include free limited dating ultrasounds. Schedule your free visit today.