What is RU486?

RU 486 is a chemical compound that, taken in pill form, can induce abortion in women up to nine weeks pregnant. This compound gets the first part of its name from the French company, Roussel Uclaf, which first developed the abortion pill back in 1980. The "486" designation is the shortened version of the original "38486" compound number the pill was first assigned in the Roussel Uclaf laboratory. (1)

RU486 is also known by its generic name, mifepristone, and by Mifegyne, the name under which RU486 is marketed in Europe. (2) "Mifeprex," is the name under which it is to be sold in the United States, (3) though it will also be marketed as the "Early Option" pill. (4)


How does RU486 work?

RU486 is an artificial steroid that interferes with the action of progesterone, a hormone crucial to the early progress of pregnancy. (5) Progesterone stimulates the proliferation of the uterine lining which nourishes the developing child. It also suppresses normal uterine contractions which could dislodge the child implanted and growing on the wall of the mother's womb. (6)

RU486 fills the chemical receptor sites normally reserved for progesterone, but does not transmit the progesterone signal. Failing to receive that signal, a woman's body shuts down the preparation of the uterus and initiates the normal menstrual process. The child, deprived of necessary nutrients, starves to death. The baby detaches and is swept out of the body along with the decayed uterine lining. (7)

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