While many people focus solely on RU 486, the so-called " French abortion pill," the RU 486 technique actually uses two powerful synthetic hormones with the generic names of mifepristone and misoprostol  to chemically induce abortions in women five-to-nine weeks pregnant.
The RU 486 procedure requires at least three trips to the abortion facility. In the first visit, the woman is given a physical exam, and if she has no obvious contra-indications ("red flags" such as smoking, asthma, high blood pressure, obesity, etc., that could make the drug deadly to her ), she swallows the RU 486 pills. RU 486 blocks the action of progesterone, the natural hormone vital to maintaining the rich nutrient lining of the uterus. The developing baby starves as the nutrient lining disintegrates.
At a second visit 36 to 48 hours later, the woman is given a dose of artificial prostaglandins, usually misoprostol, which initiates uterine contractions and usually causes the embryonic baby to be expelled from the uterus.  Most women abort during the 4-hour waiting period at the clinic, but about 30% abort later at home, work, etc.,  as many as 5 days later. A third visit about 2 weeks later determines whether the abortion has occurred or a surgical abortion is necessary to complete the procedure (5 to 10% of all cases).
There are several serious well documented side effects associated with RU 486/prostaglandin abortions, including prolonged (up to 44 days)  and severe bleeding, nausea, vomiting,  pain,  and even death. At least one woman in France died while others there suffered life-threatening heart attacks from the technique.  In U.S. trials conducted in 1995, one woman is known to have nearly died after losing half her blood and requiring emergency surgery. 
Long term effects of the drug have not yet been sufficiently studied, but there are reasons to believe that RU 486 could affect not only a womans current pregnancy, but her future pregnancies as well, potentially inducing miscarriages or causing severe malformations in later children. 
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