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Medical abortion in the United States: is it legal and what does it consist of?

Medical abortions are available to those early in their pregnancy and do not require surgical intervention.

Medical abortions are available to those early in their pregnancy and do not require surgical intervention.

As the country awaits the final decision from the Supreme Court on the fate of Roe V. Wade, many begin to take a hard look at what abortion could look like in a post-Roe society.

Medical abortion, sometimes reffered to as a chemical abortion, does not require surgical intervention, rather patients are prescribed a drug that induces cramping and uterine shedding. The name brand drugs, Mifeprex and Misoprostol was granted FDA approval twenty-two years ago, and today, generic versions of the medication are available across the country.

Typically, the drug is prescribed to those who have been pregnant for less than ten weeks.

The active ingredient in the drug is the hormone progesterone. Companies that make medications used for medical abortions say their supply remains high in cases where there was an increase in demand.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that medical abortions represented 42.3 percent of all abortions in 2019. Additionally, from 2010 2019, the use of medical abortions increased by around 123 percent. These trends continued and in 2020, with medical abortions represented more than half, fifty-four percent, of all procedures in the US.

While the FDA has only approved the use of the drug for pregnancies less than ten weeks, some doctors believe that the treatment would be safe and effective for a longer window.Also, the lab that manufactures the drug is working with the FDA to allow it to be sold at pharmacies. The pill has a shelf life of around five years and costs around $50. However, a medical abortion can cost anywhere between $400 and $500 which includes consultations and after care appointments with a medical professional.

Which states have restricted the use of medical abortions?

In thirty-two states, physicians are required to administer the medication, even though in other states, the medication can be consumed safely at home. Further, in nineteen of those states, the doctor must be physically present when the pills are administered to the patient.

The reproductive advocacy organization, Guttmacher Institute believes that these states have passed these restrictive laws to “curtail rights to bodily autonomy as many seeking abortion may have to drive hundreds of miles to the nearest abortion clinic, take time off of work, and find care for their children.”

In Texas, specifically, medical abortions are only able to be administered before the seventh week of pregnancy.

Arizona, Arkansas, and Texas have passed bills that ban the mailing of abortion bills to patients. Other states have tried to pass similar laws but they have seen legal challenges and are currently being held up by the courts.


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