20 Republican Senators Petition the FDA to Ban the Abortion Pill
Using inaccurate medical arguments, Senator Ted Cruz and a group of other Republican politicians are petitioning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to classify the abortion pill (also known as mifepristone and by the brand name Mifeprex), as “dangerous”—and to take it off the market.
“Pregnancy is not a life-threatening illness, and the abortion pill does not cure or prevent any disease. 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,” Cruz wrote on Twitter earlier this week. Cruz announced that the group wrote a letter to FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, M.D. asking the FDA to ban the drug.
“We must now urge the FDA to exercise its authority…and 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 letter reads. A group of 71 representatives in the House signed a similar letter, led by Representative Jody Hice.
For a little background, mifepristone is a pill that is used to terminate pregnancies at 10 weeks or earlier, SELF explained previously. The medication, also known as Mifeprex and RU-486, works by blocking progesterone receptors. That keeps progesterone from doing its job of keeping the uterine lining thick and, without it, the pregnancy can’t go forward. Normally, mifepristone is regulated under a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS), which requires patients to take the pill with a medical care provider present in 18 states, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Then, 24-48 hours later, the patient will take a second pill (misoprostol) to help the termination process along.
The letters come after a federal judge ruled in July that patients could receive the pill by mail due to the current pandemic, as PBS reports. But experts had already been calling on the FDA to ease the REMS restrictions for years, arguing that they make it unnecessarily difficult for people to access the medication. Amid the current pandemic, in-person office or clinic visits may be especially difficult and, in some cases, may be less safe than a telemedicine visit because they introduce the possibility for exposure to the coronavirus. The pandemic has also seen an embrace of telemedicine that makes the in-person requirement to get mifepristone even more ridiculous.
Plus, research shows that a medication abortion accessed via telemedicine is not any less safe than one requiring an in-person visit. That’s not particularly surprising considering that mifepristone is a relatively safe drug. Like any medication, it does come with some short-term side effects, such as bleeding, cramping, and nausea, SELF reported previously. But these can often be managed with over-the-counter pain medication. Your doctor can also provide prescription anti-nausea medicine.
On the other hand, contrary to Cruz’s assertion, we do know that pregnancy and childbirth in the U.S. can be deadly—especially for Black women. For every 100,000 live births in the U.S., there are 17.4 maternal deaths, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data from 2018. But for Black women, there are 37.1. In fact, research suggests that Cruz’s state of Texas has one of the most concerning maternal mortality rates in the country.
In rare (but not rare enough) cases, pregnant people may be at risk for severe complications during labor and delivery, such as hemorrhaging, sepsis, and blood clots, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists explains. Even if pregnancy isn’t deadly, it can still cause serious health complications, including anemia, high blood pressure, diabetes, and mental health conditions (which can, in some circumstances, be life-threatening).