Know the difference

Knowing the difference between emergency contraceptive pills and the abortion pill is valuable if you are or think you might be pregnant. The two are effective in different ways, and taking the wrong one could be harmful.

Emergency Contraception

The emergency contraceptive pill, commonly known as the morning after pill, is available over the counter at pharmacies across Australia. There are two kinds of emergency contraceptive pills:

  • 5mg single dose levonorgestrel emergency contraceptive pill (LNG-ECP)
  • A 30mg single dose ulipristal acetate emergency contraceptive pill (UPA-ECP)

LNG-ECP is approved for use within the first 72 hours (3 days) of having unprotected sex, while UPA-ECP is licensed for use within the first 120 hours (5 days) following unprotected sex. Each ECP is most effective if taken within the first 24 hours.

How does it work?

The emergency contraceptive pills each work by preventing the ovary from releasing an egg. Without release of an egg, pregnancy is unable to occur. Emergency contraceptive pills will be ineffective if you are already pregnant.

Abortion Pill

The abortion pill, also known as RU-486 or a medical abortion, is a combination of two pills that terminate pregnancy when taken together. It must be prescribed by a medical professional and can be taken within 9 weeks of pregnancy. The abortion pill’s legality depends on what Australian state or territory you’re located in.

How does it work?

The first pill, mifepristone, blocks the flow of progesterone to the pregnancy. Progesterone is a hormone that is necessary for the pregnancy to continue. The second pill, misoprostol, begins contractions in order to expel tissue from the uterus. There are risks involved, as it is a medical procedure.

What’s the difference?

Emergency contraceptive pills are only effective within just a few days of having unprotected sex, and it is not an abortive method. The abortion pill is effective after a confirmed pregnancy and within the first 9 weeks.


If you are or think you might be pregnant, Diamond Women’s Support offers services completely free of charge to help you through the next steps. Learn more about who we are and what we offer.