At a campaign event in Iowa yesterday, Sen. Ted Cruz responded to a question about contraception access by dismissing the threat of “condom police,” calling attacks on contraception “an utterly made-up, nonsense issue.”
“Now listen,” he told the audience. “I have been a conservative my entire life. I have never met anybody, any conservative who wants to ban contraceptives.”
It may be true that that Cruz has never met anyone who wants to ban condoms. But he deliberately misses the point.
Only a few fringe activists are talking about banning all forms of birth control outright. But the larger conservative movement, with Cruz’s vocal support, has been diligently working to make it more difficult for women, especially low-income women, to access reliable and affordable contraception.
This is a result of the anti-abortion movement’s quiet shift back toward anti-contraception policies, including their plans to close down Planned Parenthood, enact sweeping restrictions on health insurance for contraception and, increasingly, pass “personhood” measures that, if successful, could ban certain forms of contraception.
The most recent legislative assault (and, as of last week, violent assault) on Planned Parenthood was prompted by a smear campaign conducted by activists who have long sought the organization’s destruction. This is not just an attack on abortion rights — these activists, and the politicians who support them, want to prevent the organization from conducting all of its health care activities, including providing women with affordable contraception. Cruz has made defunding Planned Parenthood a centerpiece of his campaign, calling the women’s health organization an “ongoing criminal enterprise.”
Cruz, who has taken on with enthusiasm the Right’s campaign to redefine “religious liberty,” has been a vocal proponent of efforts to allow employers to block their employees from receiving insurance coverage for contraception, as mandated by the Affordable Care Act. He celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, which allowed private employers to refuse to provide health coverage for contraception. And he frequently brings up on the campaign trail the case currently before the Supreme Court in which a group of employers want to be able to deny their female employees access to contraception coverage through a separate entity. This would all be moot anyway if Cruz were to become president: He’s promised to “repeal every word of Obamacare.”
Along with working to make it more difficult for women to access reliable and affordable contraception, Cruz has flirted with the parts of the extremist personhood movement that could more accurately be described as the “condom police.”
Cruz has privately promised at least two anti-choice groups promoting fetal “personhood” laws that he would support their legislative efforts, which, if successful, could criminalize common forms of hormonal contraception. One group, Georgia Right to Life, said Cruz signed their pledge to give legal rights to embryos and another organization, National Pro-Life Alliance, announced that Cruz supports the radical Life at Conception Act. In addition, he has courted the support of activists who are vocally hostile to contraception, including, most recently, radical preacher Kevin Swanson.
It may be true that Cruz doesn’t know anybody who wants to outlaw condoms. But that’s not the threat that reproductive rights advocates are talking about, and he knows it.