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Non-surgical, medically induced abortions


The RU-486 abortion pill

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The medication "mifepristone" was developed in France by Dr. Etienne-Emile Baulieu in 1980. He found a method of preventing a woman's body from producing a hormone that sustains early pregnancy. The pill is widely know as "RU-486" throughout North America. The letters is taken from the initials of the pharmaceutical company Roussel-Uclaf. The "486" is said to be an arbitrary lab serial number. 1 However, some skeptics have suggested that RU-486 really means "aRe  yoU  FOR  getting rid of..."  "86" has been a common abbreviation in English since the mid 1930's; it means "ignore" or "get rid of." 2

RU-486 was first introduced in France, where it is called Mifegyne. It has been used, in combination with prostaglandin medication, to induce abortions in about 500,000 women over the last two decades.

Over the last fifteen years, dozens of clinical studies on RU-486 have been conducted with thousands of women in over 20 countries, including France, Britain, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the U.S., Scandinavia, and the former Soviet Union. 3 By 1999, mifespristone was approved for marketing and sale in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Israel, the Netherlands and Spain. 4 Danco Laboratories, the U.S. distributor had expected to be selling the pill in that country by the end of 1999. 3 That did not happen. The FDA finally approved the pill for U.S. distribution on 2000-SEP-28. It first became available in 2000-DEC. The Alan Guttmacher Institute estimates that during the first six months of 2001, more than 37,000 abortions were induced using RU-486 and similar medication. This represented approximately six percent of all abortions performed. 5

As of 2002-MAY, initial indications are that about 29% of women who are eligible to use RU-486, and to whom it was offered, have chosen it in preference to a surgical abortion. 6

By mid-2015, the use of RU-486 in some European countries has risen to include about 60% of all abortions. In the U.S. it is used in about 20% of all abortions. It is expected to finally be available in Canada starting in 2016-JAN. 7

Topics covered in this section:

bullet Regulation & production difficulties
bullet How it works; what the expelled embryo looks like. Contraindications
bullet Safety
bullet Reaction of pro-life and pro-choice groups
bullet News items from the media:
bullet 1999 and 2000
bullet 2001 and 2002
bullet 2003 to now

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The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Childbirth by Choice Trust has a very complete and balanced article on U-486 at:
  2. "86 (number)," Wikipedia, at:
  3. "Pros and cons of abortion pill," Toronto Daily Star, 1999-JUL-19.
  4. Letter to this website from the Population Council, 2000-MAY-25. Their web site is at:
  5. Amy Westfeldt, "RU-486, similar pills accounted for 6 percent of U.S. abortions, study finds," Associated Press, 2002-JAN-15, at:
  6. Kate Silver , "Abortion pill slips under radar," Las Vegas Weekly, 2002-MAY-16, at:
  7. "Abortion Pill: Approved finally, Toronto Star, 2015-AUG-01, at:

Site navigation: Home page > "Hot" topics > Abortion > Facts > here

Copyright © 1997 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2010-AUG093
Author: B.A. Robinson

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