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Q: Is the Abortion Pill the same thing as Plan B?

A: The short answer is no, Plan B and Medication Abortions are not the same thing. 

Plan B

Plan B and RU-486 are made of different medications. Plan B is levonorgestrel 1.5 mg (a synthetic form of the pregnancy hormone progestin) and is used to prevent pregnancy in three ways: temporarily stopping the release of an egg through ovulation, preventing fertilization, or preventing a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus by changing the uterine lining. Plan B is available over the counter and is taken in a single dose.

Essentially, according to Dr. Amy Roskin, Plan B has a significantly higher level of hormones than birth control pills and helps those who take it to have a significantly less risk after having unprotected sex. Plan B is not a guarantee that a pregnancy will not happen, especially when taken outside the recommended 72-hour window after having unprotected sex, but Plan B’s website claims that “when used as directed, about 7 of 8 women who could have become pregnant did not become pregnant after taking Plan B”. Additionally, if a person is already pregnant, it will not harm the existing pregnancy. 

Other factors to consider:
  • If taken on the day or the day after ovulation, it has been found to be much less effective.
  • Plan B is more effective in individuals with a BMI under 25 and has been found to be not as effective in those who have a BMI above 30.
  • Side effects are common, and if you experience hypersensitivity to its ingredients, have a history of abnormal bleeding, or are taking certain herbal products you may not want to take Plan B. 

RU-486, or Mifeprex (also known as a medical abortion, Plan C, or a chemical abortion), causes the abortion of an established pregnancy by blocking progesterone receptors in your body, which causes the lining of your uterus to shed. Then, roughly 48 hours after Mifeprex/Mifepristone is taken, Misoprostol is taken to cause uterine contractions and empties the uterus. Side effects vary, but in general, the abortion will feel the same as a miscarriage. The user can expect to experience cramping and bleeding and may experience dizziness, fever, or vomiting.

Things to consider before pursuing a medical abortion:

As of December 2021, medication abortions no longer require an in-person visit to a prescribing physician, and the medication can be obtained through a virtual visit with a number of prescribers. Prior to taking the medication, there are a few things that are important for you to know.

  1. Before considering a medication abortion, you need to know if you’re actually pregnant, and if so, whether the pregnancy is viable.
  2. You will need to know if your pregnancy is intrauterine (or not ectopic), as the medication will not work if your pregnancy is ectopic and cause serious complications.
  3. You need to know how far along you are. If you are too far along (over 70 days since your last menstrual period), the medication loses effectiveness.
  4. Your doctor can assess the risks and determine your eligibility based on your health history and current medications (see the medication and health history list from the Mayo Clinic).
  5. While not all clinics will require that you have an STD test prior to taking the abortion pill, because there is a 10% risk of needing surgery, it’s important to know whether or not you have an STD so you can avoid exposing your uterus to a virus or bacteria.
What are other names for the abortion pill?

The Abortion pill is also known as RU-486, Chemical Abortion, Plan C, Medication Abortion, or the Missed Period Pill.


Plan B and RU-486 are vastly different. The morning after pill works to prevent pregnancy, and if there is already a pregnancy, it will not harm it. RU-486 will cause the abortion of an existing pregnancy.

have more questions?

Alpha Center is here for you – no matter what. If you are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy and are unsure about your options or what to do next, schedule a pregnancy or pre-abortion screening appointment. There, you can learn about your options, find out if you’re pregnant, and have a space to ask questions. We’re the experts in the unexpected – and we provide everything at no cost to you in Fort Collins, Colorado. To schedule an appointment, call 970.239.2272 or request an appointment.

Authored by: Kristen Long, Alpha Center. Portions of this post were last updated May 2023.