Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush says Planned Parenthood should be denied government funding, joining a conservative backlash to the women’s healthcare organization that has seen several states revoke its funding.
“I for one don’t think that Planned Parenthood ought to get a penny,” Bush told an audience at an Englewood, Colorado, town hall. “Because they’re not actually doing women’s health issues – they’re involved in something way, way different than that.”
The women’s healthcare organization has been a talking point for much of the 17-member Republican presidential field sinceanti-abortion activists began releasing undercover videos of the group’s employees discussing fetal tissue donation.
Several states have revoked Planned Parenthood’s funding at the state level, and others have investigated the organization. No states have found the group guilty of any wrongdoing, and medical experts, bioethicists and attorneys have widely criticized the videos as a misleading political stunt.
Earlier this month, the candidate told conservatives at the Southern Baptist Convention, referring to the roughly $500m Planned Parenthood receives in federal funds, that he was “not sure we need a half a billion dollars for women’s health issues”, a comment widely criticized by Democrats.
Following Bush’s comments in Colorado, Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton responded that “Jeb is just wrong”, noting that Planned Parenthood provides 900,000 cancer screenings and 4.5m sexual transmitted disease tests and treatments per year.
In its most recent report, Planned Parenthood said that abortion services constitute just 3% of all the services it provides. Affiliates in many states don’t provide abortion services, and some that do don’t participate in fetal tissue donation programs (which videos alleged the organization was illegally profiting from). Several states have already closed investigations into the organization, finding no wrongdoing.
Bush has long been an advocate against abortion rights. In his time as Florida governor, he established a pregnancy crisis hotline that directed women to anti-abortion advocates (“pregnancy crisis centers” do not provide abortion, but rather advocate against it).
When the hotline was established in 2005, it received $4m to launch, and $2m each year after while he was governor, according to PolitiFact Florida. He also began selling anti-abortion license plates which drove donations to such centers. Bush visited one center while campaigning this summer in South Carolina. He used the occasion to call for an investigation of Planned Parenthood, after the release of the undercover videos.
In 2001, Bush called for a portion of Florida’s family planning budget to be redirected to abstinence-only education. It’s unclear whether the proposal was approved.