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Deb Gordon

Deborah D. Gordon has spent her career trying to level the playing field for healthcare consumers. She is co-founder of Umbra Health Advocacy, a marketplace for patient advocacy services, and co-director of the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates, the premiere membership organization for independent advocates. She is the author of "The Health Care Consumer's Manifesto: How to Get the Most for Your Money," based on consumer research she conducted as a senior fellow in the Harvard Kennedy School's Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government. Deb previously spent more than two decades in healthcare leadership roles, including chief marketing officer for a Massachusetts health plan and CEO of a health technology company. Deb is an Aspen Institute Health Innovators Fellow, an Eisenhower Fellow and a Boston Business Journal 40-under-40 honoree. Her contributions have appeared in JAMA Network Open, the Harvard Business Review blog, USA Today, RealClear Politics, The Hill and Managed Care Magazine. She earned a BA in bioethics from Brown University and an MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School.

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Top Facts You Need to Know About Medical Abortion

Top Facts You Need to Know About Medical Abortion

What is medical abortion? How does it work? Where can you get it?

Access & Affordability

A medical abortion is one way to end an early pregnancy using prescription medication. Complications are very rare, and this method is considered safe and effective for most people up to 70 days of pregnancy, or about 9 to 10 weeks since their last period.

In 2020, more than half of the abortions in the United States were medical abortions. Six out of 10 abortions in the United States take place in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, and medical abortion is the most common method for ending a pregnancy in that time frame.

person taking pills for a medical abortion

  1. Medical abortion, medication abortion and the abortion pill all mean the same thing — taking medication instead of getting a surgical procedure to end a pregnancy.
  2. The method involves taking two types of medication — mifepristone and misoprostol — in combination, either at home or in a healthcare facility.
  3. These medications must be prescribed by a certified healthcare provider. You can get them from some healthcare providers and clinics (either in-person or via telehealth) or through mail-order or online pharmacies. Be sure to research online pharmacies first to be sure they are safe sources for medication. We’ve included a resource below.
  4. Medical abortion is effective 99.6% of the time. In the few occasions when it does fail, surgery or additional follow-up care may be needed.
  5. Complications are rare, but can happen. These include:
    • Leftover tissue from your pregnancy in your uterus
    • Blood clots in your uterus
    • Very heavy bleeding
    • Infection
    • An allergic reaction
  6. If any of these occur, you will need to reach out to your healthcare provider for additional treatment.

  7. You can be in a comfortable place, such as your home, when you take your pills. The pills will cause bleeding and cramping. Some people may also experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or other side effects. Plan to take 1 to 2 days of rest after a medical abortion.

woman talking to a pharmacist and illustration of a woman patient talking to a doctor

While medical abortion is a safe and effective alternative to surgical abortion, it’s not right for everyone. It’s important to discuss the method, including whether you’re a good candidate, with a healthcare provider, either in person or through an online telehealth provider. For more information about access to medical abortion, check out Plan C.

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