A new study is showing that abortion medication prescribed through telemedicine results in successful abortions with low rates of adverse effects. So, yes, the abortion pill — a term that usually refers to both mifepristone and misoprostol, which are taken together to induce non-surgical abortion — works. And abortion drugs work without a woman seeing a doctor in person to use them.
The study, published this week in The BMJ, analyzed the self-reported outcomes of 1,000 women in Ireland and Northern Ireland after they induced their own abortions with medication from the organization Women on Web (WoW). (WoW provides access to medical abortion in areas where safe abortion is inaccessible or, as it is in Ireland and Northern Ireland, illegal.)
In addition to assessing the success of the women’s abortions and any undesirable experiences they reported, researchers also looked at their ability to recognize symptoms that indicated a potentially serious complication and when to seek further medical attention for those symptoms.
What they found was that 95 percent of these self-sourced and self-managed medical abortions were successful, meaning they didn’t require any surgical intervention afterward. Of the 1,000 women, 93 experienced a symptom that might have been indicative of a serious complication. The vast majority of these, 95 percent, sought care (the five who didn’t seek care also didn’t report experiencing any adverse outcome) — so, yes, women are smart, sentient beings who can follow directions, take medication as prescribed, and seek care when needed.
Medical abortion has been shown before to be incredibly safe. According to Planned Parenthood, serious complications of the procedure are rare, and research indicates that it leads to serious side effects in fewer than one percent of cases.
The drug mifepristone first gained FDA approval for use in in 2000. By 2012, a fifth of all abortions performed in the U.S. were medical abortions — and that’s not counting abortions performed outside the official medical system: “In the case of the United States, we already know women are self-sourcing, so there is a public health duty to help make it as safe and supported as possible,” lead author Abigail Aiken, an assistant professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Policy at the University of Texas-Austin, said in a statement.