Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush says he “misspoke” on Tuesday when he questioned the level of federal funding for women’s health services.
“With regards to women’s health funding broadly, I misspoke, as there are countless community health centers, rural clinics, and other women’s health organizations that need to be fully funded. They provide critical services to all, but particularly low-income women who don’t have the access they need,” Bush said in a statement released by his campaign.
The controversy started at the Southern Baptist Forum, where Bush was pushing back on the Democratic argument that defunding Planned Parenthood is part of a “war on women.”
“You could take dollar for dollar — although I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues — but if you took dollar for dollar, there are many extraordinarily fine community health organizations that exist to provide quality care for women on a wide variety of health issues,” he said.
In his follow-up statement, Bush said he was referring to the “hard-to-fathom” $500 million in federal funding that Planned Parenthood receives each year.
The campaign’s attempt to clarify Bush’s remarks caused confusion at first, with a statement circulated over email to reporters initially omitting the line that said he had misspoken.
The campaign then appeared to pull down the statement posted online that said he “misspoke"; minutes later he sent a second version to reporters that included the line.
The response is sure to fuel new attacks from Democrats, who quickly pounced on Bush’s remarks at the forum.
“Jeb Bush is sure about one thing — he wants to restrict access to affordable health care for women, which isn’t surprising considering his ‘shame and blame’ playbook. This backwards ideology isn’t only the exact opposite of what women need from their next president — it could put the health of millions of women in jeopardy,” said Kaylie Hanson, the director of women’s media for the Democratic National Committee.
Bush, a former Florida governor, was initially asked if Republicans should make funding for Planned Parenthood an issue as more controversial videos about its use of fetal tissue are released.
“We should, and the next president should, defund Planned Parenthood,” he said, adding that he revoked its state funding when he served as governor of Florida.
The U.S. government, or any government, shouldn’t fund abortions, Bush said.
The Hyde Amendment bans federal funding from being used for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or when it's necessary to save a mother's life.
Chatter has been increasing on Capitol Hill about a possible government shutdown in October over Planned Parenthood funding. The White House has vowed that President Obama would veto any measure that cuts off the more than $500 million in federal funding the group receives each year.
“I don’t remember how many times we’ve had government shutdowns and budgets not passed,” Bush said Tuesday. “If I’m president, we’re going to respect the Constitution get back to regular order way where democracy works again where you submit a budget, you work with Congress, you pass a budget and in that budget, there will not be $500 million going to Planned Parenthood.”
His remark comes a day after GOP presidential front-runner Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump gives Lester Holt a C grade for debate Trump camp talking points: Mention Monica Lewinsky Trump floats theory that Google suppresses negative news on Clinton MORE said he'd be willing to force a government shutdown to defund Planned Parenthood.
Asked if he supports a shutdown on “The Hugh Hewitt” show, Trump replied, “Well I can tell you this: I would.”