While working on the profile, I was thinking a lot about the Republican party circa 2014, and although this isn't specifically related to Cruz--he has not engaged in any war-on-women type scuffles--I have several thoughts on this running debate about the GOP's woman problem. One of which, of course, is that the Republican party may be struggling to attract female voters because lately it feels like we can't hardly go a day without some high-profile Republican saying some dipshit thing about women, or matters concerning them.
Taking a more dispassionate view, though, I'll observe a few concurrent circumstances:
1. The Republican party is a coalition of fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, and libertarians. Many fiscal conservatives also identify as social conservatives, and libertarians sometimes look like fiscal conservatives with guns, etc, but broadly speaking those are the three main groups.
2. Fiscal conservatives and libertarians both call for a relatively limited state. This generally implies a decentralized private safety net existing alongside or instead of a public one.
3. A central concern of social conservatism, if not the central concern, is the restriction of reproductive rights for the protection of unborn children. In other words, whether or not it's the goal, social conservatism necessarily calls for differential government oversight of women than of men.
Taken together, those points suggests that some of the friction in the Republican party is inevitable. Libertarianism treats freedom from unwarranted government encroachment as a first principle. Fiscal conservatism obviously works most smoothly when people, regardless of gender, have the means and capacity to take care of themselves and others. Social conservatives, however, have an implicit premise that it's appropriate for the government to constrain certain people more than others.
Those constraints might not be burdensome in practice--many women live their whole lives without having occasion to confront them--but nonetheless, in accepting that premise, social conservatives are advocating an idea about government power that sits awkwardly alongside the libertarian ideals of freedom and the fiscal conservatives' pragmatic need for people to largely take care of themselves so the government doesn't have to.
Incidentally, we know (from data) that the private-sector safety net in the United States largely rests on the contribution of women, who provide a disproportionate share of the country's child care, elder care, hours spent volunteering, and so on. That is among the reasons I would argue that pro-life arguments that abortion restrictions are for women's health--to protect women from the doctors of the abortion industry or the peer pressure of feckless boyfriends, etc--are untenable. If women are that weak, then we're going to need a bigger welfare state. Social conservatives, for the most part, supposedly don't want that.
Personally, I'd like to see social conservatives focus their efforts on their actual sphere of influence, viz, themselves. There's nothing stopping anyone from advocating for his or her beliefs in the private sphere, and for that matter, many people are committed to moral values despite the fact that they're not legally obligated to be. Barring that, the approach Cruz is taking is not the worst one. He's clearly a social conservative, but he's equally clearly focused on other issues. And as you can see in the story, he thinks that there's room for a variety of views in the Republican coalition--which there must be, if the party is to have a future.