On Tuesday, at the Southern Baptist Convention, Jeb Bush expressed doubt that the federal government needed to spend $500 million on "women's health issues." Why question the federal government's trillion dollars drug war failure or the $432 million it spent on never-used war planes when you can question its spending $3.25 per woman? His comments were, of course, a response to Republican lawmakers' latest failed attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides low-income women with cancer screenings, STD testing and treatments, safe abortions, and all the services women and men need to plan a family when they're ready. You can bet these comments on women's health by Bush have been unpopular with women. Bush further elaborated:
The argument against this is, well ... "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 extraordinarily fine, federally sponsored community health organizations to provide quality care for women on a wide variety of health issues. But abortions should not be funded by the government — any government, in my mind.
So, before we get into the outrage the presidential hopeful's words have sparked among fellow politicians and social media, some much-needed clarification. First, there's a serious flaw with Bush's proposal that women obtain Planned Parenthood's services from "federally funded community health organizations." Many of these community health centers were set up by Obamacare, as California Sen. Barbara Boxer pointed out, and ironically enough, Republican lawmakers overwhelmingly opposed Obamacare. Boxer also said community health centers in California simply could not take any more patients, and would certainly not be able to handle the influx of women that defunding Planned Parenthood would send their ways.
This inconsistency too often paraded by anti-choice extremists should hardly come as a surprise. Their outrage with Planned Parenthood was sparked by a tremendous inconsistency following video propaganda misrepresented as evidence that Planned Parenthood "sells baby parts." The video merely featured a discussion on compensation for the donation of fetal tissue for research. Republicans have repeatedly voted in favor of fetal tissue research, which happens to quite literally save lives.
On Wednesday, Iowa Democratic Party Chair Dr. Andy McGuire and former New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Kathy Sullivan held a press conference call directly responding to Bush's ignorant statements. McGuire and Sullivan both spoke passionately against both Bush's words and his attempts to hush the outrage over them. They pointed out that his actions — namely the policies on women's health present in Florida while he was governor — speak much louder than his claim that he simply "misspoke." McGuire eloquently stated:
As Chair of the Iowa Democrats, as a doctor, and as a mother of seven children, I strongly believe that politics should never interfere with a woman’s ability to access quality, reliable health care. End of story. Unfortunately, we’ve recently seen women's health care become partisan football again when Iowa Senator Joni Ernst introduced a short-sighted bill in the Senate that put politics ahead of health care accessibility. ...
But apparently, Jeb Bush didn’t believe that bill went far enough. I couldn't believe my ears when I heard that he told a crowd that he wasn't, quote, "sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues." Well I'm a doctor, and let me tell you what I’m sure about: Women’s health issues are some of the most important issues we need to care about as a society. When women are healthy, families are healthy, and that’s good for our economy, for our families, and for our country...
So Jeb Bush can try to walk back his comments, but he can't walk back his policies that would make it harder for women in Iowa and across the nation to lead healthy lives.
Sullivan proceeded to rightly point out that Bush's approach to women's health, both in his words and his policies, wouldn't get him far in socially progressive states like her own. The reaction his words have inspired from women should make it clear, too, that while he's "not sure women's health issues need half a billion dollars," plenty of women are now sure they don't support him. Sullivan said:
Jeb Bush has made it clear that when it comes to women, his policy is just shame and blame — and gutting funding for health services. Hey Governor Bush, here’s a tip — that won’t get you very far in New Hampshire. ...
While Bush claims he 'mis-spoke' yesterday, I don’t believe that for one second. His entire record aligns with his outrageous comments. As governor, Bush vetoed funding for women’s health clinics and programs that help a woman plan a family when she is ready. And he’s clearly ready to do this again. ...
So please, Jeb Bush, continue to dismiss the importance of women’s health. But just remember, it’s at your own peril.
Current Democratic presidential candidates were quick to condemn Bush's words, as well. Hillary Clinton fought Bush with a simple, eloquent tweet. Bush has since responded to her tweet by spewing out the usual pro-life rhetoric. Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders e-mailed his supporters:
[W]e need to be spending a lot more money on women's health care. We need to be investing in organizations like Planned Parenthood that provide absolutely essential health services for women, particularly in low-income communities. ... Americans need a president who knows women in this nation deserve a whole lot more than $3 a person for health care.
Sanders then invited supporters to sign his campaign's petition to stand for women's health care.
Politicians aren't the only people who have reacted to Bush's concerning failure to understand the state of women's health care in America. Twitter responded with the hashtag #FactsForJeb, which has heeded plenty of tweets containing information Jeb clearly wasn't aware of. Or at least I should hope he wasn't aware of any of it — frankly, it would be disappointing on so many levels if he knew all of this, and still questioned whether women's health issues needed $500 million. Here's a few:
By questioning whether health care for women requires $500 million, Bush upset social progressives and alienated American women, and the response has been glorious. It's certainly scary that Bush said what he said when you consider how, to some conservatives, Jeb is "too moderate." However, regardless of all the ignorant things often said and done by politicians of the far-right, there's nothing better than savoring the heated, spot-on reactions they often inspire. And the reaction to Jeb Bush's comments on women's health issues was no exception.