Many people believe that abortions are unsafe or that in order to have a safe abortion, it must take place in a healthcare institution. This is false. Having an abortion using pills, also known as a medical abortion, is a safe method that has changed the way women can end a pregnancy. With the right information, any woman can perform this procedure safely outside of a healthcare facility.
A non-surgical abortion that can take place at home is done with what is commonly called the “abortion pill”. But what exactly is the “abortion pill”? Misoprostol is a medicine that produces contractions in the uterus, which are movements that cause the endometrium (the tissue that covers the uterine walls) to detach from the uterus. This is the exact same process that takes place during a menstrual cycle. During an induced abortion, just like during menstruation, the visible result of these contractions is a discharge of blood than can last several days as well as cramping.
Even though Misoprostol can be used on its own to effectively and safely end a pregnancy, the combined use of Mifepristone and Misoprostol is more often regarded as safer and more effective. Mifepristone stops the hormonal flow needed to develop and maintain a pregnancy, and followed by Misoprostol, contractions begin and the pregnancy is expelled from the uterus. The “abortion pill,” therefore, is not just one pill; medical abortion consists of several Misoprostol pills or a combination of one Mifepristone pill and a few Misoprostol pills, normally 4.
Most pregnant women are suitable candidates to use these pills with little or no medical supervision in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.  This is what makes the procedure so revolutionary; a medical abortion allows women the independence to safely induce an abortion and to be in control throughout the process. Because abortion stigma is generally universal and deeply engrained within society, sometimes women can be made to feel uncomfortable while seeking an abortion in a clinic or hospital. However, when having an abortion outside of a healthcare facility, women can change this in a number of different ways. They can determine when they have the abortion and avoid mandatory waiting periods required by law, for example. They can decide who will be there with them. They do not have clinic rules that might separate them from family, friends, or their partner, or laws that require a parent’s or a partner’s consent. Also, it is easier to choose how they want to experience the abortion and how to manage their pain. Some of the benefits of being at home include being able to prepare tea or comfort food, using a hot compress for cramps, taking pain relievers as needed, and curling up in bed or on the couch. In other words, a medical abortion allows women privacy and control over their abortion experience.
Being able to self-induce your own abortion in a safe way is the main advantage of a medical abortion.This detail becomes even more relevant in countries where the law restricts abortions altogether and there are no abortion services offered in health clinics. In these countries, an abortion with pills is the safest and most accessible way to terminate a pregnancy. But are there risks?
In places where abortion is illegal, women still have abortions everyday. In some cases, using abortion pills will allow these women to terminate their pregnancies without the fear of legal punishment. Once Mifepristone is swallowed and Misoprostol is dissolved under the tongue or in the cheeks, there will be absolutely no trace of the drugs . So what happens when there are complications and women need to go to a hospital in places where abortion in not permitted? Medical staff cannot prove these pills were used, not even after medical analysis, and the symptoms of an abortion induced with pills are the same symptoms of a miscarriage. This means that if women experience complications, they can go to a hospital or health clinic and they do not have to say that they have taken abortion pills. For medical staff everywhere in the world, treatment of miscarriages is mandatory and legal. For this reason, medical abortions can help women to have control over their own body even in situations where abortion in restricted or illegal.
The use of Mifepristone and Misoprostol has completely changed abortions for women. It not only provides women with a safe alternative to end their pregnancy, but it allows them to take full control over this process and choose the conditions in which the abortion will take place. With abortion pills, women are in control and have autonomy over their own bodies. So why do it at home? Because it’s safe, comfortable and private.
If you are interested in ending your unwanted pregnancy with pills, safe2choose can support you. Our website (www.safe2choose.org) provides reliable information on how to have a safe abortion with pills and you can also chat privately with specialized counselors so you are never alone during your process. safe2choose also facilitates access to abortion pills in over 200 countries.
Marián is a feminist that believes in reproductive justice. Her work contributes to ensure that every person, especially women, can exercise their rights. At safe2choose she works as a live chat counselor and social media monitor to provide safe abortion information globally.