In an attempt to ban an abortion pill, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz falsely claimed that pregnancy is not "life-threatening" in a letter he co-authored with 20 other GOP politicians. And as health experts, politicians, and women who have actually experienced pregnancy first hand almost immediately pointed out, that couldn't be farther from the truth.
Earlier this week, Sen. Cruz sent a letter, which was signed by dozens of Republican senators, to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking that the abortion pill Mifeprex be "classified as an imminent hazard to the public health" and be banned because "as you are surely aware, pregnancy is not a life-threatening illness, and the abortion pill does not cure or prevent any disease."
The letter went on to claim that the drug should not be approved through an accelerated approval process on the grounds that it is a "pill that is specifically designed and intended to kill preborn children was raced to the market, with devastating consequences."
Cruz doubled down on his assertion that "pregnancy is not a life-threatening illness" in a tweet on Wednesday. "Pregnancy is not a life-threatening illness, and the abortion pill does not cure or prevent any disease," he wrote. "Make no mistake, Mifeprex is a dangerous pill. That’s why 20 of my Republican colleagues and I are urging @US_FDA to classify it as such."
Several activists, health experts, and politicians refuted Cruz's claim that pregnancy was not life-threatening, including reproductive and health expert Dr. Beverly Winikoff, who told USA Today, "No, it's not an illness, but it is life-threatening." "The odds of dying in pregnancy are higher than dying from this drug," Winikoff told the news outlet. "So in fact, if you wanted to make a risk calculation, it's actually safer to have a medical abortion, than it is to have a full-term pregnancy. We have data on that."
There are a variety of issues that can crop up in pregnancy that could absolutely be considered life-threatening, as the World Health Organization (WHO) explains, including high blood pressure (also called pre-eclampsia or eclampsia), infection, severe bleeding during delivery, and complications from delivery.
California Assemblywoman Christy Smith tweeted about Cruz's statement and shared her own pregnancy experience on Twitter. "I almost died from pregnancy related complications, eclampsia with seizures," Smith tweeted. "Please do mansplain more Senator..."
Face The Nation producer Emily Tillett noted that not only are women dying in childbirth, but pointed out that some are dying at a much higher rate than others. "I'm sure the millions of Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native women who are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, would beg to differ on this," Tillet tweeted.
Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that Black women, American Indian, and Alaska Native women are two to three times more likely to die due to pregnancy-related issues than white women.
Lisa Savage, a Democratic candidate for the Senate in Maine, pointed out on Twitter that the United States has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world. "Ted Cruz & the GOP are spreading dangerous misinformation," Savage tweeted. "Sadly, pregnancy IS life-threatening, as the US has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world. It's time to retire Susan Collins so she stops enabling anti-woman, anti-healthcare ideologues like Cruz."
President of NARAL Ilyse Hogue noted in a statement on Twitter that the Texas senator has never been pregnant, "and clearly knows nothing about maternal mortality rates in the US or in Texas." Hogue added, "People die in childbirth at an unconscionable rate, especially women of color. Not from medication abortion. Sadly, knowledge is not a prerequisite for power."
Dr. Jennifer Gunter, an OB-GYN and author of The Vagina Bible, shared a reminder that there are certain medications that could be more dangerous than the abortion pill, "Medications for erectile dysfunction are more dangerous than Mifeprex," she tweeted. "Maternal mortality is a tragic 17.4 deaths/100,000 live births. Abortion is safer. Medical abortion is health care. Are you lying or just stupid?"
Ted Cruz might not think pregnancy is life-threatening, but there are plenty of actual medical experts who beg to differ.