Weeks after the news broke, Republican candidates have begun to weigh in the ongoing lead contamination disaster in Flint, Michigan, which has disproportionately impacted the city’s low-income people of color.
Last week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) gave one of the strongest responses of his party, blasting “every level of government” for exposing residents to the polluted tap water and calling the situation “heartbreaking.”
“Every American is entitled to have access to clean water,” he said at a campaign stop in New Hampshire.
Yet over this past weekend, Cruz’s presidential campaign began distributing bottled water not to every Flint resident, but only to those who visited the city’s four crisis pregnancy centers. The campaign said the donation to these centers, which aim to persuade women not to have an abortion, demonstrates “the pro-life values of Senator Cruz.”
Wendy Lynn Day, the Michigan state director for Cruz’s presidential campaign, said that while the campaign began at the crisis pregnancy centers, they also gave out water at a homeless shelter and a high-rise apartment building, and plans this week to distribute at a housing project and to university students who live off-campus.
Yet the initial focus on crisis pregnancy centers has drawn criticism. These centers — operated by conservative, anti-abortion groups — often provide pregnant women with misleading or incorrect information about their options. Pamphlets handed out at such centers have claimed, falsely, that an abortion poses a grave threat to a woman’s life and increases her risk of breast cancer.
Last year, California became the first state to attempt to regulate these centers. The “Reproductive FACT Act,” which anti-abortion groups are challenging in court, mandates that such centers inform visitors that they do not have a medical license. The centers also need to inform women that they have a legal right to an abortion. In the lead up to passing the law, women’s rights groups sent undercover investigators to crisis pregnancy clinics across the state, and found that staff members often gave false information about the frequency of miscarriages, the results of an ultrasound exam, and the effectiveness of birth control.