At a question-and-answer session in Iowa, Republican presidential hopeful and government shutdown maestro Ted Cruz weighed in on the topic of contraception, and the GOP’s attitude toward it. After making an awkward joke about having sex with his wife, Cruz said that Republicans are fine with contraceptives like condoms, and that the "war on women" is a myth.
“I have never met anybody, any conservative, who wants to ban contraceptives,” Cruz claimed. “Last I checked, we don’t have a rubber shortage in America. Like, look, when I was in college, we had a machine in the bathroom, you put 50 cents in, and voila! So yes, everybody who wants contraceptives can access them. But it’s an utterly made-up, nonsense issue.”
Oh boy, here we go. Where to begin? First and foremost, Cruz is completely misrepresenting what progressives say about Republicans. Nobody is claiming that Republicans want to ban contraception outright. No, what Democrats and others on the left take issue with is the fact — the indisputable fact — that many Republicans want to limit access to the use of contraceptives as much as possible. That's a much broader claim, and unlike Cruz's, it's rooted in fact. Just take a look at his fellow Republican contenders for the Oval Office.
Cruz doesn’t have to look far to meet a conservative who fits that description. One is Rick Santorum, who’s running against Cruz for the Republican nomination. Santorum said in 2011 that contraception is “not OK” because “it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” That’s pretty damn unequivocal.
Cruz’s Senate colleague Marco Rubio, also a 2016 presidential contender, pushed a “religious freedom” bill that could have potentially stripped millions of American women of their employer-provided contraceptive coverage. Oh, and there’s the fact that just about every Republican wants to defund Planned Parenthood, which plays an absolutely crucial role in providing contraceptive services to American women, especially low-income women.
Paul Ryan, who is now speaker of the House, cosponsored a “personhood” bill in 2013 that would have rendered women guilty of murder if they used contraceptive devices like IUDs or the morning-after pill. Similar bills have been proposed by Republican legislators on the state level as well. Many Republicans, such as former Texas Governor Rick Perry, oppose contraceptive education in public schools, and instead support demonstrably ineffective abstinence-only programs. And so on and so forth.
As for Cruz’s flippant claim that “we don’t have a rubber shortage in America,” that’s disingenuous on several levels. For one, cheap bathroom condoms aren’t always reliable, as many of them don’t comply with widely-recognized safety standards. Also, some people are allergic to latex, but common latex alternatives, like lambskin condoms, do not protect against STIs. And even though condoms are around 98 percent effective, that 2 percent adds up over time. A New York Times investigation found that for every 100 women who use condoms regularly over a 10-year period, 86 will have unintended pregnancies at some point. (That number is based on “typical use,” which refers to accuracy with which the average couple has been shown to use condoms. If a couple engages in “perfect use” — that is, using them exactly as specified during every sexual encounter — the number of unplanned pregnancies drops to 18 out of 100 women. Perfect use of any contraceptive is rare, though.)
The bottom line is that many Republican elected officials are anti-contraception. There are no two ways about it, and Cruz is trying to muddy the waters. His argument is disproved, however, not only by the historical record, but also by the other Republicans standing by him on the debate stage.