Ted Cruz Faces Backlash for FDA Abortion Letter Stating Pregnancy Is 'Not Life Threatening'

Republican senator Ted Cruz has faced a backlash for co-authoring a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) demanding the abortion pill be banned.

In the letter, Cruz and 20 Republic senators asked the FDA to "classify the abortion pill as an 'imminent hazard to the public health' that poses a 'significant threat of danger' and remove this pill from the U.S. market."

The document stated that "pregnancy is not a life-threatening illness, and the abortion pill does not cure or prevent any disease."

However, according to the latest figures from the World Health Organization, every day in 2017 approximately 810 women died from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. In the U.S., the maternal mortality rate in 2018 was 17.4 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, rising to 37.1 live births for black women, the CDC says.

Democrat Shannon Freshour who is running for Congress in November, shared a tweet by Cruz repeating the claim that pregnancy is not life-threatening, and said: "This is a dangerous, misogynistic lie.

"Pregnancy can, and often is, a life-threatening or even life-ending medical condition, especially among black mothers and women of color."

Ilyse Hogue, the president of the reproductive rights lobbying and advocacy organization NARAL Pro-Choice America tweeted: "Medication abortion is incredibly safe. Ted Cruz knows this. Fear and lies are all they have to push their unpopular agenda. And politicians who push ideology over science to shape public policy are precisely the ones who got us a disastrous response to COVID. It has to end now."

Dabney P. Evans, associate professor at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health, told Newsweek: "The FDA is a highly respected scientific organization who should be left to conduct its regulatory responsibilities free from political interference. This letter represents an overstep that endangers the health and rights of pregnant people under the guise of protecting women's health."

Dr. Angel Foster, professor in the faculty of health sciences at the University of Ottawa, told Newsweek: "Carrying a pregnancy to term and delivering carries a greater risk of death than having an early medication abortion."

She said: "The claims being made by this group of Republican Senators are belied by the clinical and public health evidence and the way that they use data in this letter is distorted and grossly misleading."

Newsweek has contacted Ted Cruz's press office for comment.

What is commonly referred to as the abortion pill involves taking to medicines to terminate a pregnancy: mifepristone and misoprostol. Mifepristone is taken first to block the production of progesterone to prevent a fetus from growing, followed by misoprostol which causes cramping and bleeding to empty the uterus, similarly to a heavy period or miscarriage.

The letter comes as some states have effectively banned abortions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, deeming them non-essential. In May, the ACLU sued the FDA for requiring patients to travel in person to collect the abortion pill. This was followed by a federal court in Maryland ruling the FDA must ease restrictions.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, medicated abortion was first approved by the FDA in 2000, and made up 39 percent of all abortions in the U.S. in 2017.

Speaking to Newsweek last year as state legislatures across the U.S. debated bills restricting access to abortions, Dr. Meera Shah, a Fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, said "abortion care is incredibly safe and it's actually one of the safest medical procedures that we can perform."

A Consensus Study Report on abortion in the U.S. published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published in 2018, concluded: "The clinical evidence clearly shows that legal abortions in the United States—whether by medication, aspiration, D&E, or induction—are safe and effective."

This article has been updated with comment from Dabney Evans and Angel Foster.

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Ted Cruz is pictured in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill August 04, 2020 in Washington, D.C. He has co-authored a letter calling for the FDA to ban the abortion pill. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Image