Mifepristone could—but probably won’t—revolutionize a post-Roe world.
It's been heavily regulated since it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for medication abortions in 2000. Government restrictions make it difficult for women who are miscarrying to get it.
A step-by-step look at how these drugs end pregnancy.
Garland’s mention of the FDA approval of the drug is a nod toward the federal preemption argument, says Rachel Rebouché, interim dean of Temple University Beasley School of Law. That argument is based on the premise that where federal and state laws conflict, the federal law prevails.
A medical abortion actually involves a set of two pills, to be taken within about 48 hours of each other. The first pill, mifepristone (brand name Mifeprex), blocks the hormones necessary for pregnancy. The second, misoprostol, induces contractions. Together, they trigger what looks and feels like a heavy period. This kind of abortion is generally deemed appropriate within the first nine weeks of a pregnancy. Unlike a surgical abortion, it doesn’t involve anesthesia or require the supervision of a doctor to be safe
The history of the abortion pill is fraught from the start. In 1980, a French pharmaceutical company, Roussel-Uclaf, developed the medication abortion drug, which works by blocking the effects of progesterone, a hormone essential to maintaining pregnancy.
Mifepristone works by blocking the hormone progesterone. Without progesterone, the lining of the uterus breaks down and the pregnancy cannot continue.
Mifepristone is a synthetic steroid. It is a medication most commonly used for medically induced abortions. Mifepristone can also be used in the management and treatment of Cushing's syndrome and uterine leiomyomas. At low doses, mifepristone blocks progesterone by competitively binding its intracellular receptor.
About a month ago in Mexico City, I walked into a pharmacy to see how easy it would be to buy misoprostol, a drug for ulcers that is also used to induce abortions. Very easy, it turned out: All I had to do was ask for the drug and pay 699 Mexican pesos (about $35), no questions asked.