Earlier this week, Senator Ted Cruz took it upon himself to once again parrot false and dangerous anti-choice talking points about abortion. These attacks come as the anti-choice movement and its Republican allies launch an all-out disinformation campaign against medication abortion, continuing their efforts to exploit the coronavirus pandemic to block access to reproductive healthcare.
When Sen. Cruz claimed that pregnancy isn’t life-threatening, thousands of people flooded his Twitter account to debunk his blatant lies and highlight the reality that pregnancy is, for many, a complicated medical condition that can come with severe health risks. Journalists like Susan Hennessey, alongside NARAL-endorsed candidates Christy Smith and MJ Hegar, shared their personal stories of high-risk pregnancies to make it clear that politicians like Cruz have no business interfering with personal decisions about pregnancy that should be left to pregnant people and their families. They also made sure to remind Cruz that Texas ranks among the worst in maternal mortality rates, something you’d think he’d be aware of as one of the state’s two Senators.
Senator Cruz’s comments pull back the curtain on a common anti-choice tactic to attack abortion: erasing women and pregnant people from conversations about their own lives and families.
Just as Cruz attempted to erase the experiences of thousands of people (including his own constituents) by baselessly claiming that pregnancy is not a life-threatening condition, the anti-choice movement aggressively promotes health disinformation about abortion and pregnancy to more broadly dismiss the realities of why people need access to abortion care.
COVID-19 has illustrated to millions how health disinformation can directly impact people’s lives and harm their health, and disinformation about abortion is no different. Circulating falsehoods and half-truths about abortion paves the way for anti-choice politicians to push through an ideological agenda of banning abortion and punishing people who seek abortion care, despite the complicated realities of pregnancy and the fact that everyone faces unique circumstances. What’s more, for some people, abortion care is literally life-saving.
You won’t hear anti-choice activists speaking up about the maternal mortality crisis in the U.S. or the shameful fact that Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. You definitely won’t hear them talk about why these realities mean that abortion care is approximately 14 times safer than childbirth. That’s because the anti-choice agenda is not focused on keeping pregnant people safe, but on controlling their ability to access the healthcare that is right for them. By continuously propagating anti-choice disinformation, the movement prioritizes its own ideological goals over research, science, and the health and wellbeing of our communities.
And these anti-choice activists are deliberately working to manipulate social media to ensure their dangerous claims get priority over scientific information and critical fact checks. When anti-choice extremist Lila Rose promoted the disinformation that “abortion is never medically necessary” in a Facebook post, she and her allies turned to conservative politicians — including Ted Cruz — to ensure that the independent experts who fact-checked her claim were censored. Caving to conservative political pressure, Facebook allowed Rose’s dangerous disinformation about abortion to continue circulating freely on its platform, prioritizing its relationships with Cruz and other extremists over its own users’ health and safety.
Now, as the anti-choice movement continues to wage an all-out assault on medication abortion, it’s more important than ever to lift up the facts: Medication abortion is a safe, effective, and extremely common way of ending an early pregnancy. Medication abortion accounts for over one-third of all abortion care in the U.S.
If Cruz and his allies on the Radical Right achieve their goal of outlawing medication abortion, women and pregnant people across the country (particularly those in rural areas) will lose access to critical healthcare they need, in the middle of the worst public health crisis the country has seen in decades.
That’s why it’s on all of us to call out attacks on abortion access like Senator Cruz’s for what they are: dangerous health disinformation that will have real-life impacts on the health and safety of women and pregnant people.