Religious Tolerance logo

Non-surgical, medically induced abortions


The RU-486 abortion pill

horizontal rule


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. It is commonly known as RU-486, where "RU" stands for the initials of the company, and "486" is an arbitrary laboratory number. However, some commentators have suggested that RU-486 really means "aRe yoU FOR getting rid of" where "86" is an English slang term that means "throw out" or "get rid of." 2

RU-486 was first made available to women in France, where it is called Mifegyne. It has been used, in combination with a second medication, prostaglandin, to induce abortions in in many hundreds of thousands of pregnancies. It is effective if used within 49 days of the start of pregnancy which occurs at the time that the blastocyst -- the pre-embryo -- implants itself in the inner wall of the uterus. It works similarly to a natural miscarriage.

Dozens of clinical studies on RU-486 were conducted with thousands of women in over 20 countries, including France, Britain, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the U.S., Scandinavian countries, and the former Soviet Union. 3 By 1999, mifespristone had been approved for marketing and sale in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Israel, the Netherlands and Spain. 4

horizontal rule

Sponsored link

horizontal rule

Year 2000-DEC: RU-486 becomes available in the United States:

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 to women 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, during its first year on the market. 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 more invasive surgical abortion. 6

By mid-2015, the use of RU-486 in some European countries has risen to include about 60% of all abortions, the rest being done surgically. In the U.S. it was used in about 20% of all abortions. However, with so many Republican dominated state legislatures passing restrictive legislation that is forcing women's clinics out of business, RU-496 will probably become the preferred path to terminate pregnancies in the future.

Mid 2016: RU-486 to become available in Canada:

RU-486 had been expected to finally become available in Canada starting in 2016-JAN. 7 However, that did not happen either. It is expected to first be in general use during 2016-MAY. Unlike almost all other medications, it will not be available from a pharmacist. It will be dispensed only by a physician who has first completed an on-line certification course. This will allow the physician to observe his patient actually ingesting the pill. The two-drug combination will be sold under the name Mifegymiso. It is expected to cost CAN $270.00. 8

One of the main advantage to using this medication instead of undergoing a surgical abortion is that women who live in small towns or rural areas would not have to travel for long distances to a clinic that performs abortions. Outside of Quebec, such clinics are typically located only in large cities. However, the requirement that doctors purchase, stock, dispense, collect payment, and reimburse the supplier will probably restrict availability of RU-486 across Canada. Dr. Wendy Norman at the University of British Columbia said:

"This requirement is medically unnecessary and demeaning to Canadian women. ... The single most important reason physicians from across the country are citing for not planning to offer mifepristone is the need for physician dispensing. ... The physicians we have polled -- particularly rural physicians -- have no infrastructure for this." 8

horizontal rule

Sponsored link:

horizontal rule

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
bulletNews items from the media:

1999 and 2000

bullet 2001 and 2002
bullet 2003 to now

Horizontal line


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, on 2016-APR-23, at: The author of this essay added a reference to RU-486 under the topic "Cultural references" on 2016-APR-23.
  3. "Pros and cons of abortion pill," Toronto Daily Star, 1999-JUL-19.
  4. Letter to this web site 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:
  8. Sharon Kirkey, "Home abortion pill about to hit market in Canada, but has already garnered criticism," National Post, 2016-APR-19, at:

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

Copyright © 1997 to 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2016-APR-23
Author: B.A. Robinson

line.gif (538 bytes)
Sponsored link

Go to the previous page, or return to the Abortion facts menu, or choose:


Go to home page  We would really appreciate your help

E-mail us about errors, etc.  Hot, controversial topics

FreeFind search, lists of new essays...  Having problems printing our essays?

GooglePage Translator:

This page translator works on Firefox,
Opera, Chrome, and Safari browsers only

After translating, click on the "show
original" button at the top of this
page to restore page to English.

Sponsored links