The Texas Republican claimed, against all evidence, that Mifeprex, a drug used in early abortions, is “a dangerous pill.”
Senator and former presidential candidate Ted Cruz (R-TX) is one of 20 Republican lawmakers that signed a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requesting that Mifeprex, a drug that’s used in combination with other medication to terminate early pregnancies, be taken off the market.
Sen. Cruz went on to tweet that the drug is a “significant threat of danger” to women, but numerous research studies show medication abortion is overwhelmingly safe. Mifeprex was originally approved by the FDA in 2000.
“Pregnancy is not a life-threatening illness, and the abortion pill does not cure or prevent any disease,” Cruz tweeted. “Make no mistake, Mifeprex is a dangerous pill. That’s why 20 of my Republican colleagues and I are urging the @US_FDA to classify it as such.”
The context of the Republican action is the recent dispute over the enforcement by the FDA on a rule that requires patients to go in person to go to the health care provider and sign a form during the pandemic in order to get the medication. The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), along with a coalition of medical experts and reproductive rights activists, filed a federal suit asking for the rule to be suspended due to COVID-19 risks. On July 13, a federal district court in Maryland ruled partially for the plaintiffs, suspending the requirement to deliver the signature in person.
The Republican legislators to the FDA, asking to use the agency’s powers to classify Mifeprex as a “dangerous” drugs is just the next step in the anti-abortion crusade of Cruz, who in August wrote an op-ed in the conervative National Review calling the federal ruling “judicial activism.”
“Carrying a pregnancy to term is more dangerous than Mifeprex. And what’s even more dangerous? Being pregnant and getting COVID-19,” Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-TX) tweeted in reply to Sen. Cruz. “If you cared about the health of pregnant people, you’d get us more testing and contact tracing instead of fearmongering around a safe medication.”
Last month, The Washington Post reported on the staggering cases of COVID-19 in pregnant Latinas. According to the report, of the more than 14,100 pregnant women who have contracted the disease, almost half were Latina, the largest ethnic group by far.
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the United States had a maternal mortality crisis due to a range of complications related to childbirth and systemic inequities in health care. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that women have been dying in increasingly large numbers due to pregnancy-related issues since they started collecting data in 1986. The deaths have steadily increased from 7.2 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1987 to 16.9 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2016. These deaths affect African-American, Native American, and Alaska Native women about three times more than white women.
This story has been updated to reflect that numerous research studies show medication abortion is overwhelmingly safe.