Brief History Of The Abortion Pill In The U.S?

Pregnancy and childbirth are the most wonderful moment in any women’s life. Words cannot do justice to the joy of nourishing the foetus and giving birth to the baby. The period of pregnancy is considered divine in many societies across the world. Such importance, pregnant women attract in this world. 

But pregnancy can be a nightmare when it is unplanned. The cases of unplanned pregnancies have the potential to cause immense stress to the couple. The only options available for such pregnancies are to abort the baby, accept the situation and nurture it or give up for adoption. 

There are many instances of women going for unsafe abortions when there is no proper medical aid available for them. The main reason is the fear of being stigmatized in society. Many countries across the world allow abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy and even beyond the period if the pregnancy has the potential of being harmful to the child and the mother. The U.S, being the oldest democracy in the world, has a disturbing and varied relationship with abortion. Many states in the country have legalized abortion, but many others have not, putting the lives and standard of living of many women at risk.

This article takes you on a history ride concerning the history of abortion pills in the U.S. If you are a person in need, to know about the lifespan of the abortion pills, then this article is for you. 

The history of abortion pills is not long before because these are highly advanced medications created after multiple trials and tests. However, the whole concept of abortion goes way back to the biblical era itself. So, we must understand the history of abortion first and later jump on to that of abortion pills.


There are mentions of the abortion of the child in the Bible under certain conditions. So, this shows the prevalence of abortions in the Bible itself and cannot be considered a sinful act to perform.

But that cannot be the only reference to consider. So, after the Old Testament era, we look into the traditions of ancient Egyptians when it comes to the task of abortions. Abortion was prevalent even in those times and can be inferred from various archaeological evidence unearthed. For example, there are cases of induced miscarriages in Egyptian times as well. 

Those previous eras were quite primal in their techniques in contrast to the ancient Greeks and the roman clans. Even the early Europeans knew of drugs to be used for birth controls and abortions. There was a mention of a drug named pennyroyal, been in use during ancient times. This drug was used for birth control necessities. These were derived from plant-based sources, and there was the practice of growing these plants in their households itself. This portrays the knowledge that ancient civilizations had about birth control and abortion.

One of the advanced ancient civilizations was the Chinese who had immense knowledge about drugs and medicines for numerous diseases and ailments. So, it cannot be considered a surprise if they had known a drug for inducing abortion or for birth control. The Chinese had the practice of using mercury to cause a miscarriage. There was also the presence of ancient tests which had methods for causing abortions.   

When America was discovered and later when it started flourishing, there was the prevalence of slavery and abduction of African women. These women slaves had to endure horrific acts of rape carried out on them. This made it indispensable for them to look for abortion methods to protect them from giving birth to children born out of abuse. The Cottonwood plant was commonly used by women to cause abortions. Also, there were instances of the use of juniper berries and pennyroyal drugs for the same purpose.


Though there were not any proper medical methods for abortion, the act of abortion was considered legal in the U.S even up to the 1800s era. They have started medical alternatives for drugs, which were easily procured from the drug stores in those times. Also, there was even advertising done for those medicines. 

Abortion up to the time when you can start feeling the child move was considered legal, and even the church did not rise any protests against the very act of abortion amongst women. However, during the late 19th century, the trends started to change and the idea of abortion being illegal started gaining ground amongst the common public. Here are a few common ideas behind illegalization.

  1. During the late 19th century, there was an overall decline in the birth rates. These triggered fears of the race becoming extinct and ultimately triggered anger against abortions. Also, women were primarily considered to be caregivers and were preferred for the roles of midwives, maids and other poorly paid jobs. If many go for abortion, there is a threat of reduction in family size. This will cause fewer women to be recruited for caregiver jobs, and this will be a threat to capitalism, as they wanted women for these traditional roles.
  2. With the rise in women’s rights movements, many women started entering universities and occupations which were, primarily considered the domain of men. This, caused fear amongst men about losing their jobs. Also, women started entering medical professions, as well which was considered a threat by men. They did not want women to jeopardize their roles.
  3. These issues ultimately led to the creation of the American medical association, which imposed a blanket ban and illegalization of abortions all over the United States. Only when there was a danger to the mother and baby, the process of abortion was allowed. 


With the overall ban on abortions, many states in the United States criminalized abortions. They can be carried out only when the situation threatened the life of the baby or the mother, and also only by a licenced medical practitioner.

On the contrary, this ban did not create any reduction in abortion, on the other hand, caused an increase in illegal and harmful abortion practices which put many women’s lives in danger. The scientific advancements were not so proficient in the 1800s, as a result, the reliance on herbal medicines and other dangerous methods was resorted to. 

With scientific advancements, there were modern medicines and the development of pills and other powders were intensified. During the late 1800s or early 1900s, the illegalization of abortion was resorted to. After this, women could not seek help for abortion outside. This increased self-induced miscarriages. These self-induced methods were usually very unhygienic and cause a rocketing of infections and deaths.

This period remained a black era for abortions and women’s health. Due to the inability to get help from doctors, women who opted to carry out their abortions ended up in life-threatening situations and even death. There was a huge increase in female death rates and infections. It was after these dark ages that women gathered the courage to fight against this abortion law which led to the abolition of the ban in multiple states. But, time and again, governments tend to control women’s body issues through such bans. 


With the introduction of abortion pills in the 1960s, abortion history in the United States changed dramatically. Many combinations and permutations were tried to arrive at the pills, which are in use today. 

One of the earliest versions of those pills is the Aminopterin, which was used as an antithesis to folic acids. These compounds had the power to induce abortion in women. However, it can carry out only less than 3-month-old pregnancy, and not for longer cases. 

Then came the Prostaglandins, which was not an oral version. They had to be introduced through invasive procedures. Though this was new technology, it had side effects and caused damage to various other organs. This was followed by the misoprostol drug, which was initially used as a cure for peptic ulcers. 

After decades of deliberations and research, there was introduced a drug named RU-486 also known as the mifepristone pill. This is the pill which is being used by millions of women across the United States.   

Mifepristone did not reach this position easily. Initially, it was developed by a French pharmaceutical company in the 1980s. though it passed the clinical trials and was widely advertised to be used as an abortion pill in France, there erupted huge protests against these pills and abortions as a whole. 

These protests resulted in the pills being available only to the registered medical practitioner and not to any other single public person. Also, the market and distribution of the drugs were restricted to its birthplace, France. These bans created hindrances to multiple research projects being carried out. 

Later, with the initiative of a woman named Leona Benten, the ban on the imports of abortion pills was challenged. However, the case was not even heard by the United States Supreme Court. In 1993, with the initiative of U.S President Clinton, the ban on abortion drugs introduced by the FDA was asked to be re-examined. Later, in the years of 1994 to 1995, the clinical trials for the drug RU-486 were started and the Population Council was awarded the patent rights for the drug developments.

Only in the mid-1996 was the drug RU-486 recommended as a safe procedure for undergoing non-surgical abortion methods. After the recommendation of the FDA’s advisory arm, the FDA issued a letter which was to allow the approval trait of the drug. Also, with research and trials, the drug combinations of misoprostol and RU-486 were approved owing to their improved efficacy. This combination proved to produce dramatic results. There was accuracy of approximately 92% for the termination of pregnancy. 

After multiple bans and logistical and legal issues, the drug came to be approved legally by the FDA. And from 28th September 2000, the drug for formally approved as a safe method of abortion. Today, after decades of fight, abortion pills are available in varied combinations and at ease. This has resulted in safe abortions resulting in a decline in quacks and back-channels. 
Gone are the days, when you had to visit a medical practitioner for abortion pills. These are available at drugstores nowadays and bought from them at ease. These are available even without prescriptions in most cases. Also, with the advent of the digital era, there are facilities to buy abortion pill packs online, through various websites and online shops. Also, MTP Kit USA can be bought online. This transformation of abortion pills has taken years and is a great way for enhancing women’s rights over their bodies.


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