Birth control retort: Ted Cruz Condom Police

Published: December 2, 2015

Birth control retort: Ted Cruz Condom Police, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz has accused Democrats of inventing a so-called “condom police” as a means of scaring women into voting for them, spinning a question about access to birth control into a harangue about Hillary Clinton and “the war on women”.

“Jiminy crickets, this is a made-up, nonsense example! Last I checked we don’t have a rubber shortage in America,” Cruz told a crowd in Bettendorf, Iowa, on Monday.

He was asked by a voter about his position “on making contraception available for women”, which he bridged into a long comment on accusations by Democrats that Republicans want to deny women contraceptives.

“Look, when I was in college we had a machine in the bathroom. You put 50 cents in and voilĂ ,” the senator said to laughs. “Yes, anyone who wants contraceptives can access them, but it’s an utter made-up, nonsense issue.”

Reproductive rights and women’s health have emerged as major campaign issues after months of debate over Planned Parenthood, which has been painted by some conservatives as dealing in fetal tissues for research. Last week a gunman killed three people at a Planned Parenthood center in Colorado, allegedly telling police “no more baby parts”.

On Saturday, Cruz called the attack “unacceptable, horrific and wrong” no matter its intent, but said anti-abortion rhetoric should not take the blame for inspiring the attack.

“I am proud to be unambiguously pro-life to support protecting every human life, from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death,” he said a day later in Iowa. He warned: “We don’t fully know the motivations of this deranged individual.”

But on Monday the Republican senator preferred a jocular tone, arguing that his party has never sought to keep contraceptives out of anyone’s hands.

“I have never met anybody, any conservative, who wants to ban contraceptives. As I noted, Heidi and I, we have two little girls,” he said, alluding to his wife and pausing for a beat. “I’m very glad we don’t have 17.”

Cruz has called for Congress to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides women with access to birth control and safe abortions as part of its range of reproductive services. The organization and Democrats have also opposed a Republican-led bill that would allow women to buy birth control pills over the counter at pharmacies, arguing that such a measure would drive up the price of prescriptions which healthcare should cover.

In 2013, Cruz called birth control pills “abortifacients”, and as a senator has supported “religious liberty” measures intended to protect private employers who would invoke religious beliefs so as not to pay for birth control, or who might take action against employees who use birth control or have had an abortion.

But accusations of a “war on women” are political theater, Cruz told the Iowa audience, staged to distract voters away from the flaws of the Democratic frontrunner, Clinton. “So what do you do” with a weak candidate, he asked the crowd. “You go, ‘Aha, the condom police!'”

He neatly turned accusations familiar to far-right conservatives – for instance that Republicans are guilty of fearmongering over gun rights or refugees – back toward Democrats over women’s health.

Clinton and others had resorted to the tactic out of desperation, he said: “I’m going to make up a completely made-up threat and try to scare a bunch of folks who are not paying a lot of attention into thinking someone’s going to steal their birth control.”

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