Making medication abortion safer

For women seeking an abortion in much of the world, their first stop often isn’t a clinic or doctor’s office. It’s a pharmacy.  

Pharmacies can expand access to safe, effective abortion medication. But right now, women seeking abortion medication at a pharmacy don’t always receive enough advice and support. MSI is working to change that. 

An MSI-trained pharmacist at her shop.

What is medication abortion? 

Over the past three decades, increasing numbers of women have turned to medication to end an unwanted pregnancy. Medication abortion is a non-surgical method of abortion that uses one of two pharmaceutical options to end a pregnancy. The two World Health Organization-approved drugs used for medication abortion are misoprostol alone or a combination of misoprostol and mifepristone. While the combination pack is slightly more effective, both are safe to use. 

In low- and middle-income countries, misoprostol in particular is widely available over the counter at pharmacies. When women can access safe, effective medication through a pharmacy, it reduces the number of unsafe abortions and the deaths and injuries they can cause.

In many low- and middle-income countries, medication to safely end a pregnancy is available at pharmacies.

Making pharmacy-provided abortion safer 

When women purchase abortion medication from a pharmacy, they aren’t under the supervision of a doctor or nurse—but they still need support to safely, effectively end their pregnancy. This includes: 

Unfortunately, this support isn’t always available. For example, pharmacists will sometimes sell herbal preparations instead of the WHO-approved medications. In other cases, the pharmacist may distribute the correct product, but provide inadequate information on how to use it. 

At MSI, we’re working to change this. We know that self-managed abortion with medication can be safe, effective, and preferred by clients when the right support is available. To ensure clients have access to information, we offer simple, pictorial instructions on our medication abortion products and product websites. We also assess all medication abortion products for quality and conduct regular field-testing of product samples, to make sure clients are getting the correct drug and dosage. Finally, to ensure users can access counselling and support, we include information on reaching our network of contact centers, which provide ongoing support to users over the phone, WhatsApp and social media platforms. 

With the right safety measures in place, we can help more women access safe, effective medication abortion so they can continue on their chosen path. 

Click here to read more about how we can make self-managed abortion safer. 


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