Since leaving the White House, former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura Bush have pursued humanitarian work abroad in an area that has become particularly contentious for Republicans at home: women’s health. The Bushes recently opened a women’s health clinic in Zambia, a country that has the second highest rate of cervical cancer in the world.
The former president made a push for bipartisan initiatives to combat HIV/AIDS during his time in office. In the years since, he has raised over $85 million for cervical cancer programs. Bush explains his commitment to women’s health in moral terms:
BUSH: We care because we believe that to whom much is given, much is required. And those of us, who live in America, live in the most blessed nation ever and therefore when we see suffering, we ought to act. But the saddest thing of all is to know a lady’s life has been saved from AIDS but died from cervical cancer. And so starting in Zambia, the Bush Center, along with our partners, are going to put on a cervical cancer crusade to save lives.
However, this position is a departure from the one that has recently been advanced by the rest of the Republican Party. Rather than ensuring that women’s preventive care is fully funded across the country because of the moral imperative to “save lives,” as Bush puts it, GOP lawmakers have focused on partisan divides on abortion services and austerity policies.
Republican legislatures have repeatedly moved to defund Planned Parenthood based on concerns about the abortion services that it provides — despite the fact that the organization operates about 800 health centers across the country that provide nearly 770,000 Pap tests and nearly 750,000 breast exams each year, both critical preventative services to detect cancer. Earlier this year, Republicans also proposed a plan to avoid an increase in student loan interest rates by taking money from a preventative health care fund that largely benefits women’s health.
There is much more work to be done to bolster global health, but supporting preventive services for women — rather than cutting funds for women’s health issues across the board, as many Republicans in this country have elected to do — is a good start.