At a campaign event in Iowa in December, Sen. Ted Cruz laughed off the idea that Republicans were threatening access to birth control, saying, “I have never met anybody, any conservative, who wants to ban contraceptives. As I noted, Heidi and I, we have two little girls. I’m very glad we don’t have 17.”
As we noted at the time, Cruz’s comments were disingenuous. But it turns out that they were also not well received by some in one group that Cruz has been trying to court: conservative Catholics.
When Cruz gave an interview last week to the Catholic news network EWTN, host Raymond Arroyo played back the birth control comments, telling Cruz that “a lot of our viewers sent me emails” about the comments and that “some larger families took offense at that statement, they say it’s less than pro-life.”
Cruz scrambled to defend himself, saying that it was “a little snippet that’s taken out of context” and that he was pushing back against a Democratic “political attack that was deliberately deceptive.”
“I am unequivically pro-life, I believe that every life is a precious gift from God that needs to be protected from the moment of conception until the moment of natural death,” he said. “But the Democrats didn’t raise that battle on the issue of life; instead they did it on contraceptives, and it was deliberately deceptive, they were trying to scare young women into thinking some politician is going to come take their birth control away from them.”
“And the point I was making through humor – and humor is often a very effective way to communicate – is that nobody was talking about banning birth control for anyone,” he said.
He then pivoted to the Little Sisters of the Poor case, in which a number of religious nonprofits are claiming that having to fill out a form exempting themselves from a contraceptive insurance coverage mandate violates their religious beliefs because they’re making it possible for employees to get contraceptive coverage elsewhere.
The issue of contraception has sometimes been a sticking point in the anti-abortion alliance between Catholics and evangelicals. In the early days of the anti-abortion movement, some Catholic leaders of the movement presented the issues of abortion and contraception as two sides of the same coin. Conservative evangelicals, who came late to the anti-abortion movement, generally have more permissive doctrines involving birth control. Yet the two groups have united in recent years in fighting contraception access on “religious liberty” grounds, exemplified by the alliance of Catholic and evangelical leaders who drafted the 2009 Manhattan Declaration, which called for broad exemptions from and civil disobedience against civil laws on LGBT rights and reproductive freedom.