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Sex + Relationships

GOP Attacks Access to Womxn’s Health Care. Again.

On Sept 1, 2020, Senator Ted Cruz, along with 20 other republicans in Congress, signed and sent a letter to Commissioner Hahn of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requesting that the organization classify the abortion pill (Mifeprex) as an “imminent hazard to the public health” and to restrict its availability in the United States.

Let’s unpack that.

Cruz and his colleagues first criticize the use of this drug by sexual predators. This claim is immediately invalid because every single senator who signed this letter and was in office on Oct 5, 2018 voted “Yes” to confirm Justice Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, despite several valid and plausible sexual assault allegations against him.

Senator Roger Wicker, who signed this letter, wouldn’t have commented on the physical appearance of teenage interns two years ago if he cared about sexual safety. 

Senator Michael Enzi, who signed this letter, wouldn’t insinuate that LGBTQ+ people are deserving of the hatred they receive, given that LGBTQ+ people are 70% more likely to be sexually harassed at work if he cared about sexual safety.  

Senator Kevin Cramer, who signed this letter, wouldn’t dismiss the #MeToo Movement and the survivors who have mobilized within it if he cared about sexual safety. 

If these senators want to claim their opposition toward sexual predators and the ways in which they pose a threat towards womxn and children, they would not have confirmed an alleged sexual predator to the Supreme Court. They would not support a president who has been accused of sexual assault at least twenty-four times

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The senators then critique the removal of Risk Evaluation Mitigation Strategies (REMS) for the distribution of the abortion pill during the pandemic. However, it has been argued that the use of REMS for this specific medication is an issue of inequality in the healthcare system. These strategies consist of three requirements: the pill must be prescribed by a health care provider who has been certified by the drug distributor, it must be given to the patient in a doctor’s office to take home and the patient has to receive an FDA-approved medication guide and sign an agreement. 

NARAL Pro-Choice America argues that these requirements were unfair to begin with because people with lower incomes are likely to have more difficulty receiving the medication under these premises. There are other consequences and costs such as “missed days of work, transportation, gas, childcare, lodging and food” associated with obtaining the medication in this way. 

This is even worse for people who live in “family planning deserts” with no offices that offer certain reproductive health procedures within a reasonable distance. This systemically affects womxn from low-income areas, Womxn of Color, and LGBTQ+ people. REMS were unfair and classist to begin with, the removal of these regulations in light of Covid-19 will help all womxn to access the reproductive health care they need.

The senators proceeded to make a case against the ethical practices of clinical trials and studies such as TelAbortion. TelAbortion is a service in which people can be prescribed abortion pills over a video call, by a doctor, and have them sent to them to eliminate the need for an in-person appointment. The service has grown since Covid-19 began affecting the safety of going to a doctor’s office. Some people also use TelAbortion because of safety concerns, privacy and lack of nearby resources. It greatly benefits womxn who need abortions but can’t or simply don’t want to go to an in-person clinic. 

Senator Cruz and his colleagues also comment on the availability of the study, citing the U.S. National Library of Medicine, because the eligible ages for TelAbortion are 10-50 years old. What they fail to acknowledge is that if a 10 year old is in need of an abortion pill, she was raped. That should be the primary concern. This further proves that none of these people care about sexual safety, they care about controlling womxn.

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Senator Cruz and his colleagues then go on to claim that, “As you are surely aware, pregnancy is not a life-threatening illness, and the abortion pill does not cure or prevent any disease.” 

Pregnancy is not considered a disease or illness, but it is cruel and ignorant and false to argue that it is not life-threatening. The United States has an unusually high maternal mortality rate. According to the CDC, the maternal mortality rate in 2018 was an average of 17.4 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. This may not seem like a huge number, but that means that in 2018, 658 womxn died either during pregnancy, birth or a period of 42 days that followed in the United States. This is worse for Womxn of Color, increasing to 37.1 deaths per 100,000 live births for Black womxn in comparison to 14.7 deaths per 100,000 live births for white womxn. 

Many believe this is a direct result of the mistreatment and lack of priority given towards womxn’s health and the systemic and institutional racism that has been built into our healthcare system. Our country and our healthcare system is hurting womxn, pregnancy is becoming increasingly more dangerous and life-threatening and Senator Cruz and his colleagues are hatefully ignorant. 

These senators close their letter by arguing that the side effects of the abortion pill are too risky and  pose a threat toward thosewho take it. These remarks are completely oblivious to the U.S. maternal mortality rate because it is significantly safer to have an abortion with Mifeprex than it is to give birth in the United States. According to the FDA, Mifeprex has been associated with 24 deaths since its approval in 2000. In 2018 alone 658 womxn died due to pregnancy/childbirth in the U.S. 

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Since the publication of this letter, Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Tom Cotton, both signees,  have been added to the shortlist of nominees for the Supreme Court of the United States. That position would give either of those men the power to overturn Roe v. Wade entirely.

It’s clear that each and every senator who signed this letter believes they are entitled to full control over all womxn’s bodies. This belief persists regardless of any information on womxn’s health, on maternal mortality rates, on systemic racism or on sexual assault. And this belief poses a direct threat to any and all American womxn. 

Sources (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24)

Hannah is a senior at American University. She's studying political science with a focus on race and gender in politics. She loves writing and baking, and can typically be found with a large iced coffee and a pair of knitting needles.
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