Campaign Fact-Check: Would Cruz Ban Abortion as President?

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Analysis Politics

Campaign Fact-Check: Would Cruz Ban Abortion as President?

Ally Boguhn

Taking Ted Cruz’s assertion that banning abortion should be a decision left up to voters at face value ignores the candidate's drumbeat of extremism on the topic.

Appearing on a special town hall edition of Fox News’ Kelly File Monday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R) fielded a question from an audience member asking whether he would outlaw abortion if elected president. The next day, Fox ran an article misleadingly claiming that Cruz said “he wouldn’t make abortion illegal, if elected president, though he is pro-life.”

In truth, Cruz’s answer carefully downplayed his anti-choice record in order to claim that decision should ultimately be left up to voters “at the ballot box”:

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I consider myself a moderate Republican and I’m pro-choice. One of my fears and concerns is that if you become president, you may make abortion illegal nationwide. So, what’s your message to me and other women and men regarding that issue and that fear?

CRUZ: Thank you for joining us, thank you for coming out. You know, the issue of life has been an issue that has torn this country apart for many, many decades. And my view, I’m pro-life, I believe that we should protect every human life and we should protect every life from the moment of conception.

Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.

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And I will say, there is more and more consensus we’re seeing on this issue, as we see, for example, people coming together to bar extreme practices, things like “partial-birth abortion,” where we’re saying large consensuses of American people saying this practice is gruesome, it’s barbaric. It is my hope that we see people’s hearts and minds change, but this is an issue where it’s going to take time for people’s hearts and minds to change. That if you’re going to change a major issue of public policy, the way to do so, I believe, is at the ballot box.

You know, I have, my whole life I have been a passionate defender of the Constitution and I think judicial activism is wrong. One of the worst things about the Supreme Court in 1973 stepping in and seizing this issue is it took it out of control of the people. It said that five unelected judges will decide this issue, rather than 330 million Americans. I believe under our Constitution we have a democratic society, and that if someone wants to pass legislation limiting or expanding abortion, the way to do that is to convince your fellow citizens to make the case at the ballot box. And I think that ultimately is the check for both your views and my views that you’ve got to convince our fellow citizens, but I think all of us should agree that it’s a much better system to have important public policy issues decided by the people at the ballot box rather than five unelected lawyers just imposing their views on everybody else.

First, Cruz points to so-called partial-birth abortion, an inflammatory non-medical term used to describe the dilation and extraction abortion procedure (D and X). The National Right to Life Committee coined the term in 1995 in order to make passing anti-abortion laws easier. President George W. Bush signed a ban on the procedure into law in 2003, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 2007 Gonzales v. Carhart decision, though the law contains no exact medical definition of what the procedure is, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Taking Cruz’s assertion that banning abortion should be a decision left up to voters at face value ignores the candidate’s drumbeat of extremism on the topic. Just two months ago, Cruz released a nearly five-minute long anti-choice video in which, contrary to his statements on the Kelly File, he vowed to “do everything” within his power as president to end abortion if elected.

“As president of the United States, I pledge to you that I will do everything within my power to end the scourge of abortion once and for all,” claimed Cruz in the video. “That I will use the full constitutional power and the bully pulpit of the presidency to promote a culture of life. That I will sign any legislation put on my desk to defend the least of these, including legislation that defends the right of all persons, without exception other than the life of the mother, from conception to natural death.”

On the campaign trail, Cruz consistently promotes anti-choice extremism as a key component of his platform. The Republican presidential candidate even announced in January the formation of “Pro-Lifers for Cruz,” a coalition of anti-choice proponents led by the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins and including Troy Newman, head of the radical group Operation Rescue.

The Texas senator’s self-defined “pro-life” commitment has prompted him to support numerous pieces of legislation that would effectively ban abortion. Cruz’s February campaign video included a note about “enthusiastically supporting” a South Carolina “personhood” bill that would give fetuses, embryos, and fertilized eggs full constitutional rights, ending legal abortion and access to many forms of hormonal birth control, such as the pill and IUD. Cruz threw his support behind a similar measure in Georgia in August. In December, Cruz told Catholic television station EWTN that congressional action on a personhood measure could “absolutely” be used in order to ban abortion. Given Cruz’s vow to sign all anti-choice measures, it is likely such a bill would become law under his presidency—leading to a nationwide abortion ban.