Misoprostol, a prostaglandin E1 analogue indicated for ulcer treatment, has been widely used as an abortifacient by women in Brazil, where abortion is legal only in cases of rape or incest, or to save the woman's life. Because misoprostol is an inefficient abortifacient, many women who use it have incomplete abortions and need uterine evacuation. We reviewed the records of women admitted to the main obstetric hospital of Fortaleza, capital of Ceará state, Brazil, between January, 1990, and July, 1992, for uterine evacuation after induced abortion. The number of incomplete abortions induced by misoprostol increased substantially during the first half of 1990, and declined thereafter. Of the 593 cases in 1991, 75% were related to misoprostol, 10% to the use of other specified drugs, and 6% to unspecified drugs. For the remaining 9% the procedure used was not recorded; these included 3% in whom abortion had been induced by a clandestine abortionist. The number of uterine evacuations per month fell from 89 in August, 1990, to 62 in July, 1991, when sales of misoprostol in Ceará state were suspended. The fall continued after the sale of misoprostol ceased, to about 20 cases in December, 1991; numbers remained around this level until June, 1992, sustained by clandestine sales. The lack of access to contraception is the main reason for the large numbers of unplanned pregnancies and is a major public health issue for Brazilian women. The prohibition of abortion creates a void in which misuse of medicines is one extra complication, mainly because of the poor control of drug marketing.