When RU-486, the chemical abortion drug, was fast-tracked to approval by the FDA in the waning hours of Bill Clinton's presidency in 2000, it was hailed by the abortion industry as a godsend, a way for women to procure abortions without having to run the gambit of protesters outside abortion facilities.
Before that, surgical abortion was the only alternative in the U.S. But that limited choice still resulted in over 1.3 million abortions per year. By 2010, according to the Washington Post, chemical--also called medical--abortions accounted for about 25 percent of all abortions done in the first nine weeks of pregnancy and 15 percent of U.S. abortions overall.
The way RU-486 works is a two-step process. On day one the abortion pill, called mifepristone or methotrexate (originally developed for chemotherapy), is taken. This pill blocks the hormone progesterone which is necessary to sustain pregnancy. Without progesterone the lining of the uterus breaks down, the cervix softens, and bleeding begins. On day three a second drug, misoprostol, is taken. This drug induces labor by causing uterine contractions along with thinning of the cervix. If the embryo is not expelled by day 14, a surgical abortion must be performed.
The conventional wisdom of the abortion industry is that there is no way to stop the RU-486 procedure once it is started. This, however, turns out to be false. Chemical abortions can be reversed and the procedure has been effective in 23 states to date, including California. Since the abortion pill inhibits the production of progesterone, reversing the process with large doses of progesterone often succeeds in saving the pregnancy. According to statistics collected by the Abortion Pill Reversal Program for the two-year period from May 2012 to April 2014, 56 percent of mothers who changed their mind about aborting their pregnancies and received progesterone injections are either pregnant or have delivered healthy babies.
There are many challenges confronting women wanting to change their minds about going through with a chemical abortion after swallowing the first pill, not the least of which is a concern about possible birth defects. The good news is that the first prospective study on this issue found that the rate of major malformations after first-trimester exposure to mifepristone (the first pill) is only slightly higher than the expected 2-3 percent rate in the general population. These findings provide reassuring data. However, after misoprostol (the second pill) is taken, the likelihood of birth defects, including limb reductions and facial paralysis, does increase.