Jeb Bush said earlier this week that not only does he want to shut down Planned Parenthood, but that he is “not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues” at all.
Ah, yes. “Women’s issues.” What a trivial distraction from the real issues facing America.
When women and men started pointing out to Bush that they actually think women’s health is pretty important, the GOP presidential candidate immediately backpedaled, claiming that he “misspoke.” As part of the walkback, Bush said on Twitter that he “absolutely” wants to defund Planned Parenthood – the nation’s largest provider of reproductive health care and the primary care provider for millions of low-income women – and he’d then “redirect those funds to other women’s health” organizations. This approach, the former governor added, would be “in line with my Florida record.”
So what is his record as the former governor of Florida? As the Huffington Post reported this week, Bush “redirected Planned Parenthood money to demonstrably ineffective abstinence-only education programs rather than to other women’s health organizations.” He also poured millions of taxpayer dollars into anti-choice “crisis pregnancy centers” that exist solely to mislead women about abortion, all while implementing disastrous policies for real health care providers. In 2005, he vetoed $30,000 that would have funded a cervical cancer task force. And in 2004, The Tampa Bay Times reported, he used his line-item veto power to cut $2 million in funding that would have gone to the University of Miami’s Braman Family Breast Cancer Institute.
Bush says that as president he would strip all federal reimbursements from Planned Parenthood, which provides critical health care, from STI tests and cancer screenings to affordable contraception, to millions of women across America (and which was championed by his father and grandfather). He says he wants to get rid of the Affordable Care Act and replace it with something like the Medicaid program he put in place in Florida, which failed so miserably that a quarter of all Florida residents were still uninsured by the time Obamacare kicked in.
It was hard enough to get the right to vote and own property and make decisions about our own bodies. Now we seriously have to defend the idea that “women’s health issues” are important enough to merit 0.0001 percent of the federal budget?
What’s scary is that Bush is not an outlier. Instead, he is what passes for a “moderate” in today’s Republican Party. The GOP’s presidential candidates are tripping over each other to be the one who most wants to defund Planned Parenthood, who is least concerned about “women’s health issues.” Donald Trump says he would shut down the government rather than provide for women’s health care through Planned Parenthood. Scott Walker not only wants to defund Planned Parenthood, he has a long record of anti-choice policies in Wisconsin, including requiring ultrasounds because they are “cool.” Rand Paul wants to go so far as to declare “personhood” for fertilized eggs (a move that would make a pregnant woman something less than a person). Mike Huckabee even said this week that he would not rule out the idea of deploying federal troops and the FBI to stop women from having abortions. And the list goes on.
Bush’s dismissive “women’s issues” comment wasn’t a slip. It was a perfect expression of how the Republican Party views the lives of half of the population. And any candidate who doesn’t take women’s lives seriously is a candidate who doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously by voters.