Jeb Bush Isn’t Sure If We Should Spend Half A Billion On ‘Women’s Health Issues’

CREDIT: AP Photo/John Raoux

Republican presidential candidate former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks at a small business town hall meeting.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said at the Southern Baptist Convention on Tuesday that he wasn’t sure if the government should be spending half a billion dollars on “women’s health issues.”

“The next president should defund Planned Parenthood,” he said. “The argument against this is, well women’s health issues, 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 a half a billion dollars for women’s health issues, but if you took dollar for dollar there are many extraordinary fine organizations, community health organizations, that exist to provide quality care for women on wide variety of health issues. But abortion should not be funded by the government, any government, in my mind.”

The remarks come on the heels of a series of heavily edited videos released by an anti-abortion group that conservatives have used to attack Planned Parenthood, saying the organization is “selling aborted baby parts” illegally. However, the nonprofit has made clear they are legally donating fetal tissue for medical research and money exchanged is to reimburse the organization for its costs. This hasn’t stopped the Senate from pushing for a vote to stop all federal funding from flowing to the women’s health organization.

Bush is right about the amount that Planned Parenthood receives from government funds, as the Washington Post and the organization’s annual report says. The women’s health organization receives about $528.4 million through a combination of state, federal and sometimes local government dollars. Very little of what the organization spends is on abortion, and much of it goes toward routine women’s health care like contraception, regular checkups, and breast cancer screenings.


But what is unclear is whether Bush knows that federal funding for abortion is already prohibited through the Hyde amendment, a policy that’s been in place since the 1970s and that has been disastrous for low-income women. Some have argued that defunding Planned Parenthood would actually increase the number of abortions, as the organization provides so many crucial women’s health services to prevent pregnancy.

It is also unclear how much Bush thinks is appropriate for the government to spend on “women’s health issues.”

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who has robustly defended Planned Parenthood, even while she called the videos “disturbing” fired back at Bush on Tuesday.

In a statement Tuesday evening, Bush said he “misspoke” when addressing the question.

“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,” Bush said in a campaign statement, according to The Hill.

UPDATE AUG 4, 2015 5:20 PM

Updated with Clinton's response and Bush's clarification

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