The Key Differences Between Plan B and Abortion Pills

As abortion bans and limitations on emergency contraceptives emerge in the wake of overturning Roe v. Wade, we break down the difference between Plan B and abortion pills.

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There has been a growing concern among people who use or may use emergency contraception on whether pills like Plan B would no longer be accessible after the Roe v. Wade reversal.

Many drugstores and pharmacies have capped or limited their emergency contraceptive supply after people rushed to purchase as many as they could in the fear that they would no longer be able to.

With all of the worry, people who can get pregnant are evaluating their reproductive care options as some states make it harder to purchase emergency contraceptives.

As abortion bans and limitations on contraceptives continue, it is important to note that there are key differences between Plan B and abortion pills.

The main difference to note is that an "abortion pill" will terminate a pregnancy whereas Plan B is only a way to prevent pregnancy.

What is Plan B?

Plan B, also known as "the morning after" pill, is an emergency contraceptive that can help prevent pregnancy after having unprotected sex, according to the Food and Drug Association.


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The contraceptive is generally offered over the counter at drugstores or pharmacies and has no age restriction, depending on your state. If you can get pregnant, then you can buy the pill.

The one-step contraceptive can be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, but the sooner you take the pill the more effective it will be.

Plan B can also be taken in the event that you forget to take your birth control.

Emergency contraceptives are estimated to be 75 to 90% effective at preventing pregnancy, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Plan B may not work if you weigh more than 165 pounds, according to Planned Parenthood. Some alternatives would be the copper IUD or the ella morning pill.

Plan B will not work if someone is already pregnant. Plan B does not interrupt a pregnancy, and Planned Parenthood says it will not affect a fetus, however more studies need to be done.

As with many other routine medications, emergency contraceptive come with side effects:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Change in menstrual flow
  • Dizziness
  • Tenderness in breasts
  • Delay in your cycle

Emergency contraceptives like Plan B are currently still legal, however, there are states that are making it significantly harder to be able to get them.

What is an Abortion Pill?

The abortion pill, which is also known as a medication abortion, is an emergency contraceptive that terminates an early pregnancy.

According to Planned Parenthood, when or where you take the pills depends on state laws and your heatlh centers policies.

After the ultrasound, two pills will need to be taken in order to complete the medical abortion.

Mifepristone is the first pill that would need to be taken. This pill will block the hormones that are necessary in order to maintain a pregnancy. Misoprostol is the second pill required, which will cause the uterus to contract and empty.

Here are the side effects of the abortion pill:

  • Heavy bleeding
  • Cramping
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Changes in body temperature

Abortion pills are approved by the Food and Drug Association for use within the first 10 weeks of a pregnancy.

Which states have banned abortion medication?

Abortions, including medical abortions, are now banned in some states though legislators have made it very clear that more states will follow through with abortion bans.

Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah and Alabama have banned the abortion pill. Idaho, Tennessee and Texas are expected to implement bans in 30 days. Bans in Mississippi, North Dakota and Wyoming are expected to go into effect as well, according to CNBC.

California is among one of the states who has promised to protect abortion rights with Governor Gavin Newsom signing the Multi-State Commitment along with Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Washington Governor Jay Inslee.

There are also some actions being taken at the national level as the Department of Human Services launched an HHS Reproductive Access Task Force which would take steps to increase access to medication abortion.

There are many resources that will help you in finding clinics or more information on abortion laws in your state.

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