Democrats hit Jeb Bush after comments on funding for women’s health

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Published: August 6, 2015 10:41:04 AM

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush vowed Tuesday to cut off federal funding for a health care nonprofit that provides abortions if elected to the White House, but drew immediate fire from Democrats for adding, ''I'm not sure we need half a billion dollars for women's health issues.''

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush vowed Tuesday to cut off federal funding for a health care nonprofit that provides abortions if elected to the White House, but drew immediate fire from Democrats for adding, ”I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.”

Democratic frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton replied on Twitter, ”(at)JebBush: You are absolutely, unequivocally wrong.”

The question of Planned Parenthood’s funding leapt into the 2016 presidential contest this week amid an ongoing row into the release of graphic videos, secretly recorded by anti-abortion activists, that show officials of the group describing how they sometimes provide fetal tissue to medical researchers. Abortion opponents say the recordings caught Planned Parenthood illegally selling the organs for profit, while Planned Parenthood officials – while apologizing for their workers’ businesslike words – say they’ve abided by laws that let them recoup the procedures’ costs.

Planned Parenthood provides health services, family planning and abortions in clinics and is a longtime target of conservatives. While federal money is barred from paying for abortions, except for cases of rape, incest or when a woman’s life is in peril, Republicans would like to cut off tax dollars for the group entirely.

Jeb Bush leapt at the chance Tuesday to prove his anti-abortion bona fides before a group of largely conservative Christian voters at a meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. He was asked during an onstage interview, ”Shouldn’t we … say not one more red cent for Planned Parenthood?”

His response – ”The next president should veto Planned Parenthood” – drew a loud ovation at the packed Bridgestone Arena.

But his comments about money for women’s health left Bush and his campaign cleaning up his remarks just hours later. He issued a statement saying he ”misspoke” when speaking about women’s health funding and was referring only to the ”hard-to-fathom $500 million in federal funding” for Planned Parenthood.

”There are countless community health centers, rural clinics and other women’s health organizations that need to be fully funded,” Bush said. ”They provide critical services to all, but particularly low-income women who don’t have the access they need.”

An earlier statement sent to reporters lacked Bush’s assertion that he had misspoken. The campaign said the first version was a draft.

But the latter statement, too, wasn’t quite right. Planned Parenthood says of its $1.3 billion in revenue last year, $528 million came from taxpayers, but not all of it was federal money – some came from state funds that help finance Medicaid, the health care program for low-income Americans.

And Bush shot back at Clinton on Twitter, too, writing, ”what’s absolutely, unequivocally wrong is giving taxpayer $ to an org whose practices show no regard for lives of unborn.”

The Senate on Monday voted 53-46 to advance a Republican-backed bill terminating Planned Parenthood’s federal funding, seven short of the 60 votes needed to keep the measure moving toward passage.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who spoke in a pre-recorded interview to the conference, said the ”erroneous” landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade that legalized abortion must be overturned. ”Until that decision is reversed there will be abortion in America,” he said.

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