Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks during a town hall meeting campaign stop at the Medallion Opera House in Gorham, Massachusetts July 23, 2015. 
Photo by Brian Snyder / Reuters

Incoherence on women’s health trips up Jeb Bush

Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush was in Nashville yesterday, speaking at a Southern Baptist Convention event, where he made a comment that voters are likely to hear more than once in the coming months. The quote is a little long, but I’m including the whole thing so readers can see the full context:
“The next president should defund Planned Parenthood. I have the benefit of having been governor and we did defund Planned Parenthood when I was governor. We tried to create a culture of life across the board. The argument against this is, well, women’s health issues are going to be, you’re attacking, it’s a ‘war on women’ and you’re attacking women’s health issues.
“You could take dollar for dollar – although I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues – but if you took dollar for dollar, there are many extraordinarily fine organizations, community health organizations, that exist, federally sponsored community health organizations, to provide quality care for women on a wide variety of health issues. But abortion should not be funded by the government, any government, in my mind.”
Most of the sentences in Bush’s quote include an error of fact or judgment. The former governor has never been able to explain why Planned Parenthood – a health organization championed by his father and grandfather – should lose its public funding. He also knows that taxpayers aren’t funding abortion – that’s already illegal – and for Bush to argue otherwise is needlessly dishonest.
But the real problem was with his offhand reflection: “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.” At this point, the GOP candidate didn’t seem to be referring to Planned Parenthood, so much as Bush was questioning investing in women’s health in general.
And since taxpayer funding for abortions is already legally prohibited, it suggests Bush was referring to spending on cancer screenings, prenatal care, and STD tests. Given that there are over 158 million women in the United States, $500 million for “women’s health issues” hardly seems excessive.
Democrats, not surprisingly, were quick to take advantage of Bush’s gaffe, which his campaign quickly tried to walk back with a clarification.
“With regards to women’s health funding broadly, I misspoke, as there are countless community health centers, rural clinics, and other women’s health organizations that need to be fully funded. They provide critical services to all, but particularly low-income women who don’t have the access they need.
“I was referring to the hard-to-fathom $500 million in federal funding that goes to Planned Parenthood – an organization that was callously participating in the unthinkable practice of selling fetal organs.”
But in reality, there’s literally zero evidence that Planned Parenthood, at any level, has been caught “selling fetal organs.” On the contrary, the claim is demonstrably untrue. The organization makes fetal tissue available to medical researchers – a practice specifically authorized by Republicans and Democrats in Congress for decades – and the group is then reimbursed for the costs of shipping.
In other words, it appears one of the leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination scoffed at investing in women’s health, and when questioned, he lied about the work of an organization he opposes for reasons he can’t explain.
Voters probably haven’t heard the last of this one.
Disclosure: My wife works at Planned Parenthood, but she played no role in this piece and her work is unrelated to the controversial videos.