By Dr. Tanaya Narendra, MBBS, MSc (Oxon), FRSPH

So, if I say ‘abortion bill’, a million different questions will pop up in your head - what they are, what they do, where you can find them, are they even legal, are they safe, and so many more. It can be overwhelming. Don’t worry; have a breath. I’m Dr. Tanaya Narendra. I’m a medical doctor, reproductive rights activist, and sex educator. You can find me on Instagram and YouTube at @Dr_Cuterus, and I’ll break down some of these questions for you.

What are these pills?

Let’s start with what these pills are in the first place. They’re pills containing some pretty cool things that can help stop an unwanted pregnancy. Now this is not a contraceptive pill (which is to be used to prevent a pregnancy from happening in the first place) but instead these are pills that help dislodge a pregnancy that has already happened. It’s not uncommon for such pregnancies to happen - contraceptives fail, people miscalculate their fertile periods, sometimes people straight up forget contraceptives, and on the darker end of the spectrum, unwanted sexual intercourse can also happen. Now, for whatever reason, if a person becomes pregnant, and they make an educated choice on terminating the pregnancy at an early stage, these pills can help.

How do these pills work? What’s inside these pills?

Essentially, an abortion pill package contains two kinds of drugs- mifepristone and misoorostol. Progesterone is a hormone that is very important for supporting a pregnancy. Think of it as the Bournvita of the pregnancy - it nourishes it, and helps it become strong. Our good friend mifepristone blocks this progesterone, preventing the pregnancy from growing further. Now, even after the growth has stopped, unwanted tissues still remain inside. This is where our other friend misoprostol comes in, makes the cerci soft, and in this way, kinda opens the door of the uterus to let these unwanted, not growing tissues pass out. Together, these drugs make it easy to manage an accidental pregnancy.

Do I need to see a doctor before taking them?

So does this mean you can have them at home by yourself? Do you not need a doctor at all? Well, they’re incredibly safe and easy to use. Having said that, it’s important that you do get a prescription for these from a doctor. The reason behind this is that there are certain conditions in which taking the pills without a doctor’s recommendation can be dangerous. For example, if you have a pregnancy that has implanted outside the uterus, also known as an ectopic pregnancy, the abortions pills can lead to some very scary and potentially dangerous bleeding. Aside from this, unsupervised consumptions of the pills can be dangerous in people who have bleeding disorders.

Are abortions legal in India?

Does this in turn mean they’re illegal? Absolutely not! They’re very legal (in India), but controlled medications. Controlled in the sense that they are only available against a valid prescription by a doctor. As long as you have a doctor’s recommendation, a prescription, and the pills, you can easily end an unwanted pregnancy and take control. Because abortions are a human right.

Dr. Tanaya is an internationally trained medical doctor, embryologist, and scientist who is passionate about medical education. She runs a successful instagram page under the name “Dr. Cuterus”.