Praise be the glory days of college, when a young Princeton conservative like Ted Cruz could buy a semester’s worth of condoms for just a couple of quarters! The presidential candidate reminisced about his alma mater’s ever-flowing rivers of latex penis covers at a town hall in Iowa on Monday night, claiming that Hillary Clinton exaggerates the Republican Party’s war on women.
Cruz loves him some contraception, the residents of Iowa learned. “Heidi and I, we have two little girls. I'm very glad we don't have 17,” he said. “When I was in college we had a machine in the bathroom, you put 50 cents in and voilà! So yes, anyone who wants contraceptives can access them.” Clinton is duping voters into thinking the Republicans are coming to steal their birth control, Cruz said, calling it a “completely made up threat” of an imaginary “condom police.”
The Southern Baptist candidate’s open admission of his birth-control use is actually pretty progressive, since many religious denominations still prohibit it out of hand. The Catholic Church officially forbids any manner of contraception outside of “natural family planning,” as do many sects of mainstream Christianity. Rev. Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has provided that some contraception use is OK as long as users maintain the mentality that children are a gift, not a burden to be avoided.
But Cruz should take a hard look in the mirror before he calls the GOP’s war on contraception “made-up nonsense.” His thinking goes: I saw condoms everywhere in college, ergo condoms are everywhere. Condoms are getting more beautiful—just look at these works of phallic art coming out of France—but they’re not getting any cheaper or easier to access. People who don’t go to college, or who go to religious colleges or colleges without the funding or progressive wherewithal to install condom vending machines, would have a much harder time getting their hands on contraception than condom king Cruz did.
And Cruz has been one of the most prominent perpetrators of baseless attacks on Planned Parenthood—a source of contraception for millions of Americans and a “criminal enterprise” according to Cruz. Cruz has also hyped his endorsement by a radical anti-choice activist and proponent of violence against abortion providers—sending the message that he condones the atmosphere of danger around the places that provide the country’s cheapest, fastest access to birth control for low-income women.
A war on Planned Parenthood is a war on contraception. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 80 percent of Planned Parenthood clients receive “services to prevent unintended pregnancy.” In 68 percent of the counties where Planned Parenthood clinics are located, the organization serves at least half of all women who get their contraception from what Guttmacher calls “safety-net health centers,” which use government funding to provide care for low-income communities. In 20 percent of those counties, Planned Parenthood is the only safety-net family planning center. If Cruz and his cohort succeed in slashing Planned Parenthood funding, people all over the country would lose their access to contraception. I applaud Cruz for his use of the male barrier method—and his prudent contribution to responsible population growth—but his politics wouldn’t afford many others the choice to do the same.