Information About Abortion Pills: Mifepristone and Misoprostol

Since the introduction of misoprostol and mifepristone, the two pills involved in a safe medical abortion, women have greater choices than ever when it comes to when, how, and where to end their unplanned pregnancies. When followed correctly, an abortion with pills is a safer, cheaper alternative to surgical abortion, and offers a level of autonomy and privacy that traditional abortion procedures do not. For women in countries where abortion is legally restricted or where the stigmatization of abortions effectively curbs women’s access, inducing a safe medical abortion in the comfort of their own homes, under the radar of both law enforcement and their own communities, has become a welcomed option.

The abortion pill is most effective when it is procured from a reliable source and taken according to medically-verified instructions. But because of abortion restrictions (both legal and cultural), women may resort to “back-alley” methods to purchase pills, many of which do not come with proper instructions for its use. Moreover, most women are unlikely to be able to tell the difference between a pill that is actually misostropol or mifepristone versus a fake version.

This information gap has created an urgent public health problem. While complications associated with the abortion pill are rare, they can be serious and include blood clots, infections, and allergic reactions. Women who use abortion pills need access to reliable, non-judgmental and stigma-free health resources that allow them to make informed, safe decisions for themselves. Unfortunately, in many regions of the world, such information is hard to come by.

Use the abortion pill safely

HowToUse’s mission is to fill this information gap and provide much-needed accurate, reliable, and timely information about how to use the abortion pill safely and effectively. HowToUse prides itself on providing information that is easy to understand and digestible about the abortion pill—what to consider before a medical abortion, how to use abortion pills safely, what to expect after a medical abortion, and when to seek medical help if necessary. The organization sees itself as a resource that equips women with the information they need to safely navigate abortion on their own terms.

HowToUse’s reach is broad. The organization translates its information materials into 23 languages, and its website has been accessed by users in every region of the world. In 2017 alone, more than 1 million users have accessed the HowToUse website. The majority of users are from developing countries in Africa and Asia, where the need for reliable information about the abortion pill is especially great. But women in developed countries are using HowToUse resources as well—about 6% of users live in the U.S., and may be seeking information about medical abortion outside of clinical institutions to avoid being stigmatized by health providers in their communities.

HowToUse is 100% dedicated to providing information about medical abortions. Whereas other reproductive health organizations may focus on contraceptive access and treat abortion services as an afterthought, HowToUse centers abortion care at the forefront of the conversation. By unashamedly putting abortion at the center of their work, HowToUse staffers are able to have open and honest conversations with their users about the procedure, which leads to better health outcomes.

HowToUse is responsive to its users’ needs and recently updated its website to accommodate the increased activity from mobile users. The organization is currently undergoing a professional language audit to ensure the quality of their web translations, and plans to conduct further evaluation research to understand how to reach women who need its resources. Additionally, HowToUse is actively pursuing partnerships with organizations around the world to help provide informational material – like instructional pamphlets and posters – in any of the 23 languages that they currently serve. It is also looking for volunteers who would be willing to translate the website into new languages and to further bring safe abortion information to a worldwide platform.

Stay tuned for more updates on HowToUse and the work they’re doing all over the world.