Fact Sheet: What is Chemical Abortion?

Ashley Sadler

Communications Director

Chemical abortions currently make up more that 50% of all abortions nationwide. They are accomplished using a pair of drugs, mifepristone and misoprostol, which work together to end the life of an unborn human being and expel his or her remains from the mother’s body.

What is Mifepristone?

Mifepristone is a drug made by Danco Laboratories. It is the first pill in the chemical abortion regimen and works by blocking the growth hormone progesterone. As the lining of the uterus breaks down, the young human in the mother’s womb starves to death.

What is Misoprostol?

Misoprostol is the second drug in the chemical abortion regimen. It is taken 24–72 hours after mifepristone to induce contractions to expel the body of the deceased fetus.

Aren’t Abortions Usually Performed Surgically By Doctors?

Chemical abortions are now the most common type of abortion procedure in the United States. 

The Guttmacher Institute, a national pro-abortion research and policy organization, estimated that 63% of all abortions performed in the U.S. last year were chemical abortions, up 10% from the previous year.

Chemical Abortions Are Safe… Aren’t They?

Potential complications or side effects from the abortion drugs include allergic reactions and excessive bleeding.

The FDA warning label for the mifepristone and misoprostol regimen states that roughly 85% of women who consume the drugs report at least one adverse reaction, most commonly “nausea, weakness, fever/chills, vomiting, headache, diarrhea, and dizziness.” Up to 8% of women reportedly experience bleeding for more than 30 days, and between 2.9–4.6% visit the emergency room after taking the drugs, though other contributing circumstances may exist.

Moreover, a 2009 study based out of Finland found that chemical abortions were associated with an adverse reaction rate four times that of surgical abortions, including an increased risk of hemorrhage and incomplete abortion. In an incomplete abortion, the remains of the unborn child are not fully expelled.

Recent regulatory relaxations from the FDA have made the drugs easier to prescribe and distribute, raising additional concerns surrounding safety and surveillance.

Some women have reported experiencing severe pain and bleeding after beginning the chemical abortion regimen.

Oregon resident Elizabeth Gillette reported seeking an abortion after she became unexpectedly pregnant. At the abortion facility, she was given abortion drugs and sent home.

“Nobody warned me of the drugs’ side effects. Nobody mentioned that there was danger,” she wrote in an article published by Alliance Defending Freedom. “They promised it was safe.”

Instead, Elizabeth experienced intense cramping, which she described as “labor pains.” 

“I was completely alone,” she said. “I didn’t have a nurse. I didn’t have a doctor. I had to shut my boyfriend out of the bathroom because there was so much blood.”

“I felt like I had a fever. I felt nauseated. I couldn’t stand. My body was shaking and sweating. It lasted for hours. A heating pad, a heating blanket, Tylenol, Advil, nothing stopped the pain,” she said. “I was so scared—I thought I was going to die.”

Can Chemical Abortions Be Traumatic?

In addition to posing a potential physical risk to the mother, chemical abortions can also be deeply traumatic.

In her article published by the ADF, Elizabeth said that the intense pain she underwent after taking the abortion drug “wasn’t even the worst part.”

“The worst part was that nobody told me that I would actually pass the entire amniotic sac whole—that I would hold my dead baby,” she said. “That I would see his eyes and his fingers.”

“They told me that I would just see clotting and heavy period blood,” she said. “They lied to me.”

“When I close my eyes, I can still see my baby, floating in his little sac, dead. You don’t unsee something like that,” Elizabeth said. “You can’t.”

What About The Unborn?

We’re glad you asked. Chemical abortions can certainly cause serious physical pain and devastating emotional trauma to women. 

The potential side effects can be intense. But the intended effects are even worse. 

Every successful chemical abortion directly starves, kills, and expels an innocent human life.

Is It Possible to Reverse a Chemical Abortion?

Many women who begin the abortion pill regimen but feel regret have found success in stopping the lethal effects of mifepristone by following the Abortion Pill Reversal (APR) process. 

One young woman, Rebekah Hagan, discovered she was pregnant during a difficult period in her marriage. She took the first abortion pill, but experienced immediate regret. With the help of a pro-life doctor, Rebekah used the abortion pill reversal procedure and gave birth to a healthy baby.

Learn more about Abortion Pill Reversal here.


Oregon Right to Life believes in the sanctity of all human life from the moment of conception to natural death. Abortion ends the life of a genetically distinct, growing human being. We oppose abortion at any point of gestation. Read this and all of our position statements here.

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