But medical technology has progressed significantly since Roe was decided in 1973, and we—realistically, fortunately—won’t see a return to women using coat hangers or other implements to self-abort. Instead, it’s more likely that more and more women will turn to shady online pharmacies to buy abortion pills through the mail—a practice that is already occurring with surprising frequency and effectiveness around the world.
Women who want to have an abortion early in their pregnancies can take a combination of two drugs: misoprostol, whose brand name is Cytotec, and mifepristone, which is also called RU486. They are both on the World Health Organization’s “List of Essential Medicines,” which means they are considered safe and effective. The combination can be used until about the tenth week of pregnancy, and the medications are already used in roughly a third of all abortions.
Misoprostol, which also treats ulcers, is available in pharmacies, and it’s about 85 percent effective in inducing an abortion on its own. It is much more effective when used with mifepristone, but FDA restrictions dictate that patients can’t receive mifepristone even at a retail pharmacy, and possibly not through the mail, either.