Every Monday EFC busts myths and takes names, cutting through the misinformation, disinformation, and straight up nonsense to bring you the facts
Early medical abortion (EMA) is an abortion method available to women who are under 9 weeks pregnant. This method is also known as “the abortion pill”, but this is not a very accurate description, as it does not involve simply taking a pill. During an early medical abortion, two different drugs are used to cause an early miscarriage. The first pill works by blocking the action of the hormone that makes the lining of the uterus (womb) hold onto the fertilised egg. The other, given 24 - 48 hours later, causes the uterus to cramp. The lining of the uterus breaks down and the embryo is lost in the bleeding that follows, as happens with a miscarriage.
An EMA normally requires that the woman visit the clinic three times - once to arrange for the abortion, once to take the first medication and finally to take the second medication. She may also be asked to make a follow up visit.
Some women choose this method because it can be done as early as 5 weeks into pregnancy and is non-invasive, but others dislike that it is a more drawn out process than an early surgical abortion (or vacuum aspiration).
It is not helpful to call EMA the 'abortion pill' as it does not adequately describe the process involved and can lead to people confusing it with emergency hormonal contraception (a.k.a. the “morning-after pill”). There is more on abortion methods on the EFC website.