Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), facing criticism from conservatives, claimed that his comments about the availability of contraception and its role in his family had been taken out of context, but insisted that the GOP is not hell-bent on eliminating access to birth control for millions of people.
Cruz, in an interview last week with Catholic news network EWTN, defended comments he made at a campaign event while responding to an audience member who questioned the GOP’s policies on access to contraception. Cruz, speaking at the December event in Iowa, provided an anecdote about how his family only had two children, and preferred it that way, as evidence that Republicans weren’t trying to end access to birth control.
“Now listen, I have been a conservative my entire life,” Cruz said at the time. “I have never met anybody, any conservative who wants to ban contraceptives.”
Speaking with EWTN lead anchor Raymond Arroyo on Thursday, Cruz was forced to explain his statements when the host played back the senator’s comments and noted that “some larger families took offense at that statement, they say it’s less than pro-life.”
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Cruz suggested that the comments from the event had been taken out of context. He claimed that he had been joking about a “political attack” from Democrats alleging that Republican lawmakers were trying to ban birth control, which he asserted is a “deliberately deceptive” attack.
“I am unequivocally pro-life, I think every life is a precious gift from God that needs to be protected from the moment of conception until the moment of natural death,” Cruz explained. “But the Democrats didn’t wage 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.”
“Nobody is suggesting banning birth control,” Cruz concluded.
Republicans have long championed rolling back access to contraception, having gone as far as to threaten to hold the federal government hostage to attempt to block the Affordable Care Act’s contraception benefit.
Thanks in part to the GOP’s efforts to restrict funding, ten states prohibit certain entities, such as those that may provide abortion services, from receiving funding for family planning. House Republicans in June 2015 attempted to cut all federal funding for Title X, the only federal program devoted specifically to providing low-income people with family planning services such as contraception.
Cruz has worked tirelessly to roll back access to contraception. The senator in 2015 pledged support for Georgia Right to Life’s “personhood” legislation, which defines life as starting at fertilization and could outlaw many common forms of birth control if enacted.
Cruz has also been a vocal proponent of defunding Planned Parenthood, which provides millions of people with access to contraception, and praised Texas’ decision to pull Medicaid funding from the organization while encouraging other states to do the same.
To avoid addressing the issues, Cruz pivoted to allege that Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of nuns at the center of a court battle against the ACA’s contraception benefit, is being forced to pay for “abortion-inducing drugs” under the federal law. Cruz has made similar statements suggesting a false equivalence between hormonal birth control methods and abortion care.
As Rewire legal analyst Jessica Mason Pieklo explained, Little Sisters of the Poor has no legal duty to provide contraception, and even if the group loses its case against the ACA’s contraception mandate, “it still won’t have to provide its employees with contraception coverage, and there’s nothing the administration can do about it.”